Fillies respected here

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:26 AM ET

It sounds like male chauvinism, to be honest, a little discrimination to discourage the girls from beating the boys.

The Queen's Plate welcomes fillies, but with little chivalry. It's the opposite, you might argue, other than a small break in the weight they are required to carry when they compete in Canada's most revered thoroughbred race.

Consider the challenges facing Tasty Temptation and Milwaukee Appeal, a pair of three-year-old females who could go off as favourites in Sunday's 150th running of the historic event.

Both will be back after just two weeks' rest, seven days quicker than most of their dozen competitors in the gruelling 11/4-mile race at Woodbine. To make matters worse, because they are fillies and thus their owners didn't bother making early payments to keep them eligible for the generally male-dominated Canadian Triple Crown, each require a $25,000 supplemental fee just for the privilege of contesting the $1-million race.

Despite all that, the fairer sex has had more than its fair share of success in the Plate.

In total, there have been 33 fillies to win the gallop for the guineas in the 149 previous runnings, with Dancethruthedawn being the most recent in 2001 and 1991 Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly arguably the most famous.

By comparison, only 39 fillies have even ran in the Kentucky Derby, let alone won it. When Winning Colors captured the Run for the Roses in 1988, she was just the third filly to do so and none have since.

So when a filly does take on the boys in a U.S. Triple Crown race and wins, it receives massive attention as we saw this past month. Rachel Alexandra passed on the Derby this spring, but when she beat Mine That Bird in the Preakness, it was heralded as an effort for the ages.

In Canada, it's old hat, as recently as Ginger Brew's runner-up showing to Not Bourbon in last year's Plate.

"If this was happening in Europe, it would be no big deal," said trainer Mark Casse, who is seeking his first Plate win with Tasty Temptation. "Fillies race against colts all the time over there. And because Canada is a little more European-oriented in the way we race, probably a lot more take the chance."

"In the States, for whatever reason it is perceived as the wrong thing to do."

With appropriate respect to Plate Trial Stakes winner Eye of the Leopard, who will vie with the two fillies for favourite's status on Sunday, Tasty Temptation and Milwaukee Appeal hold an edge in some key measurables.

A one-two finish between the two in the Oaks, the country's top race for their own sex, had its own intrigue. Tasty Temptation reared up in the gate just before the race started, spotting the rest of the field several lengths before making a big run to take second.

Both fillies were assigned big speed figures for the race -- a standard handicapping barometer -- bigger, in fact than any of the boys who have to carry 126 pounds in the big race, five more than the girls.

Milwaukee Appeal, meanwhile, comes to the Plate with more wins (five, from nine career starts) than anyone else in the field. Despite those credentials and the resounding win in the Oaks, trainer Scott Fairlie has yet to make a firm commitment to starting her in the Plate and likely won't until this morning's deadline for entries.

Casse has a more aggressive approach, one based on advice he received from a U.S. hall of fame trainer known as the giant killer, Allen Jerkens.

"He said to me once: 'Mark, I don't understand this business,' " Casse said. " 'If a horse runs good, we want to give them a rest. Shouldn't we give them a rest when they're not running good?'

"(Tasty Temptation) is good right now. She's happy. So let's strike when the iron's hot."

In other words: Look out boys.


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