Say the Word
● Want to deliver Sam-Son Farm its sixth Queen's Plate crown? Well, Say the Word. It's taken some time for the son of More Than Ready to show he is that, but he's ready now, and his connections are expecting a strong effort in Saturday's big race.
● Say the Word heads into the Plate starting gate off a third-place finish (missing second by a head) in an allowance race at the Toronto oval, contested at 1 1/16 miles over the main track.
● "I thought his last race was a very solid effort against older horses," said trainer Graham Motion, who'll also send out Strike Me Down for Sam-Son. "And I don't think the (Plate, 1 ¼ miles) distance is an issue. I'm very happy with how he's doing."
● Say the Word's first year at the races offered disappointing results. At season's end, the dark bay colt had one second from four tries, along with two fifth-place efforts and a sixth.
● A pair of game plans after his two-year-old campaign made a world of difference and enabled Say the Word to be a cut above for his sophomore season. "I think he came back a better horse this year," Motion offered of the horse with one win, a second and one third from seven starts. "He was a horse we liked early on as a two-year-old and then he was slightly disappointing in the afternoon. After we gave him a break over the winter and gelded him, I think it really improved him."
● It also made Say the Word much calmer. "He was a slightly nervous horse, but he's mellowed, whether that's the gelding or with age," offered Motion. "It's been a little bit of a challenge finding the best races to get these horses to the Plate. We had a little bit more leeway with him (Say the Word). That race (his most recent one), timing-wise, I liked the way it stood out for him, to get him up to Woodbine and on the Tapeta."
Owner – Sam-Son Farm
Industrialist Ernie Samuel founded Sam-Son Farm in the 1970's, won his first Sovereign Award as Canada's outstanding owner in 1980 and in 1988 won his first Queen's Plate. In 1991, he was named Canadian racing's Man-of-the-Year as his Dance Smartly became the first Canadian-owned and bred horse to win a Breeders' Cup race, taking the Distaff at Churchill Downs. She remains the only filly to win the Canadian Triple Crown, is the only mare to foal back-to-back Plate winners (Scatter The Gold in 2000 and Dancethruthedawn in 2001) and was inducted in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs in 2003. Samuel was inducted into the Canadian Racing Hall of Fame as a builder in 1998, but died in May of 2000. The stable was then managed by his wife Liza and daughter Tammy Samuel-Balaz. In early 2008, both Tammy and Liza passed away. Yet, the operation has remained a force in Canadian racing, as Ernie's son Mark is now the CEO, while Tammy's husband Rick Balaz is the President and General Manager. Sam-Son Farm has earned Sovereign Awards as Canada's outstanding owner on 10 occasions and seven times has been named outstanding breeder. They've bred/and or raced some of Canada's most famous horses who have been inducted into either the Canadian, U.S. or both Racing Halls of Fame. Dance Smartly (1991), Sky Classic (1992) and Chief Bearhart (1997) all won Eclipse Awards as North American champions. The stable has won five Queen's Plates: Regal Intention (1988), Dance Smartly (1991), Scatter The Gold (2000), Dancethruthedawn (2001) and Eye of the Leopard (2009).
Trainer – Graham Motion
(See Strike Me Down Bio)
Jockey – Rafael Hernandez
Rafael Hernandez was born in Puerto Rico on Nov. 9, 1984, and spent his formative years there before beginning his riding career at Tampa Bay Downs in 2004. Hernandez went on to be based at a range of tracks including Charles Town, Fairmount Park, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park, Hoosier Park, Hawthorne and Beulah. While dominating at Fairmount Park, Hernandez caught the eye of high-profile trainer Wesley Ward and made the decision to move his tack to Gulfstream in 2014. Hernandez's first mount at Woodbine produced his first graded stakes win in the 2014 running of the Grade 3 Grey. The following year, he relocated here and quickly established himself as one of the top riders in the local colony, with his 16 stakes victories including the 2015 Queen's Plate with Shaman Ghost. Two years ago, Hernandez won 135 races, before winning 166 in 2017. This season, he's leading all Woodbine riders with 64 wins as of June 27.