SPORTS

Trainer Roger Attfield sending two horses in quest for first Mile victory

09/15/2011 05:55 EDT | Updated 11/15/2011 05:12 EST
TORONTO - The $1-million Ricoh Woodbine Mile is one of the few races Roger Attfield has never won.

Attfield has captured a record-tying eight Queen's Plate titles, conditioned three Canadian Triple Crown winners and six horses of the year. Eight times he's been named Canada's top trainer and in 1999 was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.

But the best Attfield has done in the Mile is second, doing so twice (1990-Izvestia, 1993-Peteski). On Sunday, Attfield will have two entries in the 12-horse field for the Grade 1 stakes turf event although Attfield goes into the race with one arm tied behind his back.

One of his horses, Forte Dei Marmi, only arrived at Woodbine Racetrack from Europe on Tuesday. Not only has Attfield never seen the five-year-old British-bred son of Selkirk ever run live in a race but has had precious little time to prepare the 15-1 pick for Sunday's event.

"He just got off the plane two days ago,'' Attfield said Thursday following the race draw at Woodbine. "All I can do is keep him happy and healthy and get him over the trip the best way we can, go to the race and see what happens.

"I've seen all the videos of his races and he's run some pretty good races and if the conditions had just been a little different he would've won. He's a nice, compact horse but probably wants a bit more ground than a mile.''

Forte Dei Marmi is winless in six starts this season but registered four wins in five races in 2010 for renowned trainer Luca Cumani.

"He was running in lesser races than the ones he contested this year," Cumani said. "He's in excellent form at the moment.

"He's a very straight-forward horse, a very gentle horse, always does what you want him to do.''

Attfield will also send Hollinger, an early 30-1 longshot, to the post Sunday. Hollinger was Canada's champion two-year-old in 2009 after starting his career with four straight victories. But he's not seen the winner's circle since in six starts and has two third-place finishes to show through four races this season.

"He didn't train on as a three-year-old as he had some physical issues," Attfield said. "He had a back issue that needed a lot of time so we just stopped on him and gave him the rest of the three-year-old year off and got him right.

"He's actually training very very well now, as good as he's ever trained. But whether he's good enough to step up right now and starting from the No. 1 hole isn't great, but you know we're there, we're punting.''

Courageous Cat, arguably North America's top horse over a mile this season, is the early 3-1 favourite. The five-year-old, trained by Bill Mott, will break from the No. 4 post with Pat Valenzuela aboard. Mott won the inaugural Mile event in '97 with Geri while Valenzuela guided Becrux to the winner's circle in the '06 event.

British-bred Side Glance, the 4-1 second pick, will break from the No. 9 post while 5-1 third selection Turallure drew the No. 8 spot. Court Vision, last year's race winner, will go from post 12.

Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer served as the guest drawmaster at Woodbine Racetrack.

The field for Sunday's race, in order of post position with horse, jockey and odds, includes:

1. Hollinger, Tyler Pizzaro, 30-1; 2. Forte Dei Marmi, John Velazquez, 15-1; 3. Woodbourne, Emma-Jayne Wilson, 30-1; 4. Courageous Cat, Pat Valenzuela, 3-1; 5. Right One, Garrett Gomez, 8-1; 6. Grand Adventure, Patrick Husbands, 8-1; 7. Riding the River, Richard Dos Ramos, 20-1; 8. Turallure, Julien Leparoux, 5-1; 9. Side Glance, Jimmy Fortune, 4-1; 10. Kara's Orientation, Emile Ramsammy, 15-1; 11. Dance and Dance, Jamie Spencer, 6-1; 12. Court Vision, Robby Albarado, 10-1.

The race winner earns $600,000 and for the fourth straight year will secure a berth in the Breeders' Cup Mile, slated for Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. However, this year the Breeders' Cup will pay entry fees as well as up to US$10,000 in travel costs.

Courageous Cat comes in with only 13 starts over his four-year career but has finished in the money 10 times (six wins, two seconds, two thirds) and has won his two races this year. One of those second-place finishes was by a half-length to French phenom Goldikova in the 2009 Breeders Cup Mile at Santa Anita.

Mott said one reason why Courageous Cat is running Sunday is to set up a potential rematch against Goldikova in this year's Breeders' Cup Mile.

"Absolutely, that's why we're doing this," Mott said.

In Attfield's mind, Courageous Cat is a deserving early favourite.

"Courageous Cat is a very nice horse," Attfield said. "He's going very well now too.''

Attfield's post positions Sunday are hardly ideal given the importance of the start in a mile-long race. However, he's not going to concern himself about it.

"I always tell my owners there are two things I don't worry about and those are start positions and weather because you have no control over either," Attfield said. "It (post positions) isn't ideal, it's certainly not what I came over here for but you work it out.

"We're going to take a shot at it anyways.''

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