Canada's long-standing enthusiasm for horse racing bubbles up this week into a froth of silk and satin that spills into the $13 million New Woodbine track (see right) for the running of one of the world's most ancient and ceremonious horse races, the Queen's Plate. Older by 15 years than America's Kentucky Derby, this race—now in its 98th consecutive year—attracts the largest Canadian sports crowd of the year. Not only that, but the Queen's Plate also wins the full-throated approval of Governor General Vincent Massey and many of the snappiest social and business figures of the Dominion, who turn out to watch Canada's premier 3-year-olds run a mile and one quarter for a purse of $40,000.
With roots which reach back to the War of 1812, Canadian racing is now marching toward its highest plateau in generations, thanks mainly to Industrialist Edward P. Taylor, who in five years has encouraged bigger purses, better tracks and the breeding of championship horses.
The scene of this year's Plate is the last word in elegance and convenience to the racegoer. Dandied up with escalators, a barber shop and even a bank, New Woodbine has drawn the plaudits of many American track owners, who have visited it with an eye to adapting some of its innovations to their own plants. Although the race is now dressed in surroundings of modernity, the nostalgic trappings are thoughtfully maintained. When the victor, tired and purring, returns to the winner's circle, Governor General Massey will walk from the red-carpeted viceregal box to congratulate the latest equine celebrity on behalf of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
One of three tracks in Ontario, New Woodbine has made it necessary for the other two—Fort Erie and Old Woodbine—to undergo architectural surgery to keep abreast of the times.
New Woodbine represents a trail blazing in Canada's current racing boom and demonstrates the young approach which Canadian horsemen are now taking. Competition on an equal footing with the United States is not far off, and, as one Canadian official said recently, "Every year we have one or two horses that look as though they could hold their own with any in the world. We're only a step away from the top of the heap."
Traditional ceremony of the Queen's Plate is the arrival of the Governor General, brought to track in a red-wheeled, black and gold carriage. He alights on a red carpet, while top-hatted members of the Ontario Jockey Club stand by to tender greetings.
Top-hatted society adds to splendor of Canada's "Kentucky Derby." Canadian Minister of Trade and Commerce C. D. Howe, Viscount Hardinge, and Frowde Seagram of distillery fame (left to right) were among the 1956 spectators.
Nattily attired Charlie Burns, a director of the Ontario Jockey Club and a wealthy stockbroker, discusses race with his wife and friend in box (above).
Colorful hats dot the scene on the day of the Queen's Plate. Robert Dale Harris, in bowler, diligently studies entries as wife scans the crowd (near right). On far right Mrs. W. Hugh Owen and Mrs. S. C. Snively wear striking head-wear while viewing race from their box at Woodbine, which opened last year.