SPORTS

Forte Dei Marmi early favourite for Canadian International at Woodbine

10/24/2013 01:09 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
TORONTO - He's won the Queen's Plate a record-tying eight times, trained three Canadian Triple Crown champions and six horses of the year, been named the country's top trainer on eight occasions and is a member of two thoroughbred racing halls of fame.

But one of the few accomplishments missing from Roger Attfield's stellar resume is a victory in the $1-million Pattison Canadian International. On Sunday, the 73-year-old resident of Nobleton, Ont., will not only saddle 3-1 early favourite Forte Dei Marmi but also Canadian-bred Perfect Timber, a 12-1 longshot.

"Obviously you'd like to win this race, we've had some very close runs in it," said Attfield, who has finished second three times. "It would be lovely to do it, for sure."

Attfield says Perfect Timber is the dark horse of the 11-horse field for Sunday's 1 1/2-mile turf race at Woodbine Racetrack.

"He's a little bit of a sleeper here," Attfield said Thursday during the race draw at Woodbine. "He didn't start racing until this year, a really late developer . . . but he's been getting better and better.

"He's only just learning the game and he's been training really really well this week. He ran close to Forte Dei Marmi last time and they are equal weights in this race, which they weren't last time, so it makes a bit of a difference. But I think Perfect Timber is rounding into really really good form."

Perfect Timber has hooked up with Forte Dei Marmi in three straight stakes races, twice finishing second to the British-bred. That included a loss by a neck in last month's $300,000 Northern Dancer Stakes, a 1 1/2-mile turf event at Woodbine. In six starts this year, Perfect Timber has been in the money four times (two wins, twice second).

Forte Dei Marmi, the seven-year-old gelded son of Selkirk-Frangy, has won his last three races to give him 10 career victories and earnings over $1 million. And he was third in last year's International behind Joshua Tree and second-place finisher Dandino.

"He has stayed on his best form for three races in a row," Attfield said of the early favourite. "Sometimes it's hard to keep up with that form but I think he's doing very well and deservedly he should be favoured right now."

Perfect Timber drew post 4 for Sunday's race while Forte Dei Marmi will break from the No. 8 position.

"I'm quite happy with the post positions, both horses are really, really doing well," Attfield said. "It's not super important in a mile-and-a-half race but it's interesting.

"Coming down the road this morning I was thinking about different horses I've won different races with and thought, 'I wouldn't mind four and eight,' that that's exactly what I got so I can't complain."

The race field, with post position, horse, country bred, jockey and odds, includes:

1) Hyper (U.S.), Joel Rosario, 5-1; 2) Temeraine (U.S.), Luis Contreras, 15-1; 3) Lucayan (France), Stephane Pasquier, 8-1; 4) Perfect Timber (Canada), John Velazquez, 12-1; 5) Joshua Tree (Ireland), Ryan Moore, 6-1; 6) Stormy Len (U.S.), Edgar Prado, 20-1; 7) Now We Can (Great Britain), Thierry Thulliez, 20-1; 8) Forte Dei Marmi (Great Britain), Eurico Rosa da Silva, 3-1; 9) Seismos (Ireland), Andrea Atzeni, 10-1; 10) Irish Mission (Canada), Gary Boulanger, 20-1; 11) Slumber (Great Britain), Mike Smith, 4-1.

Filly Irish Million is also entered in the $500,000 E.P. Taylor turf event Sunday, leaving her handlers to decide which event she'll run in.

The International winner receives $600,000.

Attfield, a member of both the Canadian and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame, has been second in this event with Spice Route (2008), Alywow (1994) and Steady Power (1989). Da Silva, who leads all Woodbine riders with 24 stakes wins, rides Forte Dei Marmi in his first International mount.

Attfield is expecting an honest pace Sunday, which he says would suit Forte Dei Marmi just fine. Attfield said Forte Dei Marmi is versatile enough to adjust to anything that transpires on the track but can't say the same about Perfect Timber.

"Forte Dei Marmi likes to sit back and come with one big run and he has a big run when he comes," Attfield said. "(Perfect Timber) is a galloping horse, he has to get into his big stride and keep his big stride going.

"You can't check him and start him again like you can the other horse."

Slumber comes in off a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational at Belmont Park on Sept. 28. He's trained by '95 International winner Bill Mott and owner Juddmonte Farms is a three-time winner of this event ('90 with French Glory, '94 with Raintrap and '09 with Champs Elysees).

Hyper is American bred but the six-year-old is the son of Canadian-bred Hall of Famer Victory Gallop. Hyper has also won his last two races and has 10 victories in 21 career starts.

Joshua Tree is the field's leading money winner with earnings over $3.1 million. The six-year-old also won this race in 2010 and was second in '11 but is winless in six starts since winning last year's International.

A win Sunday would make Joshua Tree the first three-time winner of this race.

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