Attfield aims for historic Queen's Plate win
Trainer Roger Attfield need not check his birth certificate to know time may be running out on his illustrious career to celebrate that elusive record ninth Queen's Plate victory.
The accomplished horseman is 71 and has an excellent chance to snatch the milestone win with the favourite, Check Your Soul, at the Queen's Plate at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto on Sunday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 4:30 p.m. ET).
"It's another race, it's another day," said Attfield, who emigrated from England 41 years ago and started training thoroughbreds five years later.
"This horse is physically well going into the race. I'm very happy with him.
"I feel I have a horse that is very capable of winning the race. But it's another horse race.
"You have to have racing luck, also. But I feel I have the right horse.
"Now it's just a case in which everything is right on the day and sometimes it doesn't work out that way."
It certainly has worked out that way for Attfield and the three-year-old Check Your Soul so far this season. The Plate favourite has three wins in four starts, including victories in the Wando Stakes on May 1 and the Queen's Plate Trial Stakes three weeks ago.
Check Your Soul won the nine-furlong Plate Trial when, off the final turn, the colt raced to the outside and zoomed past the field with a fierce kick to the wire.
Winning the Plate Trial is always a good sign for a trainer. The last three Queen's Plate champions — Big Red Mike (2010), Eye of the Leopard (2009) and Not Bourbon (2008) — preceded their win in the first race of the Canadian Triple Crown with a victory in the Plate Trial.
Attfield's Queen's Plate Wins
2008 Not Bourbon
1995 Regal Discovery
1989 With Approval*
1987 Market Control
*Triple Crown winner
"I always think it's an important test because you have to carry the full 126 pounds and you have to run a 1 1/8 [mile]," Attfield said. "If he runs well [in the Trial], you feel he should run well in the [Queen's Plate]."
Not Bourbon's victory was Attfield's record-tying eighth Queen's Plate win — a total that equalled the eight triumphs piled up by the late Harry Giddings Jr. between 1911 and 1942.
Of his past Queen's Plate winners, Attfield sees a little of Izvestia's disposition in Check Your Soul.
"They're all different," Attfield said. "This is a relatively easy horse, like Izvestia was, to train in respect you can work him in whatever way you want to work him.
"He's very adaptable and quite easy going."
Check Your Soul didn't race as a two-year-old last season. The colt had a chip in his ankle removed and needed time to recover. Plus, the horse was big for its age and gangly. Attfield compared Check Your Soul to "a big kid" that needed time to become accustomed to his body.
"I didn't want to put any pressure on him," he said.
Veteran Woodbine jockey Patrick Husbands, seeking his second Queen's Plate win after he won the Canadian Triple Crown on Wando in 2003, rode Check Your Soul to his last two victories at Woodbine. Attfield and Check Your Soul owner Charles Fipke combined to win the trainer's record-tying eighth Queen's Plate win with Not Bourbon in 2008.
"It's a lot of fun when you have an owner that you have a good rapport with," Attfield said. "It makes it a lot simpler in the ups and downs of this game.
"I think Bourbon was the first horse I've run in this race for him and this is the second one. So that's interesting and a good thing."
Fipke, a resident of Kelowna, B.C., is an acclaimed geologist and diamond magnate. He is known for discovering a large diamond mine named Ekati in the
Northwest Territories in 1992. His horse, Tale of Ekati, finished fourth in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.