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Trainer Attfield Goes For Record 9th Queen's Plate on Sunday

Trainer Roger Attfield after 8th Queen's Plate WinRoger Attfield won his first Queen’s Plate. On Sunday, he will once again attempt to stand alone as the winningest trainer in the race’s history.

Shakhimat completed a successful workout at Woodbine on Tuesday and will be one of the favourites for the 157th Plate.

“He worked very nicely for me this morning,” Attfield said. “He finished up down the lane, and galloped out just like I wanted to. Everything’s good.”

The accomplishments of the 76-year-old have been recited several times but he still needs that one more victory in Canada’s signature race to make it to nine, breaking a deadlock he has had with Harry Giddings Jr. since Not Bourbon provided him with his most recent Plate win in 2008.

Attfield was a relative newcomer to the thoroughbred game in 1976. Emigrating to Canada from England five years earlier, Attfield had been an accomplished show jumping rider and trainer when he was given the chance to train race horses. Success was instant. He won the 1975 Coronation Futurity with Norcliffe and on June 27 of the next year, the colt owner by Lt. Col. Charles Baker gave Attfield his first Plate win.

“Thinking back, the first one was very important,” he said. “Because coming to Canada, I thought I would want to win (the Plate) one day.”

“It probably helped my career at the time.”

After not winning it for the next 10 runnings, Attfield began a streak of six trophies in nine years. While the principal trainer for Kinghaven Farms, Attfield won with Market Control in 1987 then sent out With Approval (1989) and Izvestia (1990) to win not only the Plate, but the Canadian Triple Crown, the first two winners of the series since 1963.

He would win one more with Kinghaven (Alydeed, 1992) before enjoying two more successes in that span, with triple crown winner Peteski in 1993 for then-New York Racing Association chairman Earle Mack, and with Regal Discovery in 1995 part-owned by then Vancouver Canucks goaltender Kirk McLean.

Shakhimat, which in Russian means checkmate, burst into prominence when he went gate-to-wire in last season’s Coronation Futurity by 9-3/4 lengths. The son of Australian horse Lonhro was also third on turf in the Cup And Saucer Stakes. He returned to turf for his 2016 debut, a front-running score in the Transylvania at Keeneland. More recently, he was ninth after being part of a solid pace in the American Turf at Churchill Downs in May and on June 12, tried different tactics in the Plate Trial where he stalked the pace but was outkicked in the stretch by Amis Gizmo.

“The races he’s won he’s been on the lead but he was the only speed,” Attfield said. “I’ve tried to train him in a way that if there’s a horse who wants the lead, he can come from behind.”

In Tuesday’s work, timed in 1:01.40 for five furlongs, he was eased into three furlongs in 37.40 seconds. “He really didn’t take a deep breath,” jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson, herself looking for a second Plate win said. “He’s ready.”

Attfield was in a good position to win that ninth Plate last year with Danish Dynaformer. That runner took the lead in the stretch and looked like the winner until a late run by Shaman Ghost snatched victory away. Danish Dynaformer would instead capture the Breeders’ Stakes later in the summer, Attfield’s ninth win in that triple crown leg. Danish Dynaformer is expected to appear on Sunday in the $150,000 Singspiel Stakes on the Plate undercard.

Attfield would appreciate finally getting the record, but it’s not something he feels he absolutely has to have.

“I’m grateful and honoured to have won eight of them,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.”




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