Attfield Hopes Perfect Shirl & Musketier Continue Winning Ways
By Leona Velazquez
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Trainer Roger Attfield is hoping his veteran turf stars Perfect Shirl and Musketier start the year off the same way they ended 2011 - winning.
The English trainer will be sending out Perfect Shirl in Saturday’s Very One Stakes (G3), a 1 1/8-mile turf event for fillies and mares, and Musketier in Sunday’s Mac Diarmida Stakes (G2), a 1 3/8-mile turf race for older horses.
Saturday’s Very One has drawn a competitive field of thirteen fillies and mares. When Charles E. Fipke’s Perfect Shirl breaks from post four, it will be her first start since capturing the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. Originally, the Breeders’ Cup was not going to be mare’s final race of 2011.
“Mr. Fipke wanted to go to Hong Kong after the Breeders’ Cup,” Attfield said. “We were late getting the blood work done, so we had to cancel that trip. Then she was training so well, we made plans to go to Argentina (Dec. 17 for the Gran Premio). It turned out to be a mess. There were many cancelled flights. We would now like to go to Dubai with her. I feel a start in the Very One will give me five weeks to get ready for Dubai.”
Perfect Shirl raced seven times in 2011 for her connections but her lone victory came in the Breeders’ Cup.
“She’s interesting,” commented Attfield. “She’s tricky to train. We nicknamed her Squirly Shirley. She’s a small, wiry little filly and just started getting good at the end of last year.”
When the South America trip did not go according to plan, Attfield decided to give Perfect Shirl a little time off. The trainer has now been trying to get the daughter of Perfect Soul back into condition for her 2012 campaign. The bay mare has had two timed works at Payson Park, three furlongs in :37 and five furlongs in 1:01, both on the turf.
“She’s probably not at her best,” Attfield said. “But I feel this race will really bring her along and get us to Dubai.”
While Attfield has his sights set on Dubai for Perfect Shirl, his 10-year-old horse Musketier is in good form for his start in Sunday’s Mac Diarmida. The son of Acatenango is coming off a half-length score in the William McKnight (G2) at Calder in November. It was his third victory from nine starts in 2011 for owner Stella Perdomo.
Attfield acquired the German-bred Musketier as a 5-year-old when he was shipped from France to New York to run in the Red Smith (G2). The grey horse then suffered a condylar fracture behind and required surgery. When he made a full recovery, owner Stella Perdomo entrusted Attfield to train the colt and assess whether or not to move forward with him.
“He’s a nice horse to train,” said Attfield. “He likes what he’s doing.”
It certainly seems that way. Along with his victory in the William McKnight, Musketier captured the Elkorn Stakes (G2) at Keeneland and the Singspiel Stakes (G3) at Woodbine as a 9-year-old. Now a year later, having a 10-year-old horse compete on the racetrack is not an easy feat for a trainer. But competing at the graded stakes level is really an accomplishment.
“The secret to older horses is basically to keep them happy and healthy and they will perform to the best of their ability,” said Attfield. “After last year, his owner said ‘As long as he is happy and healthy, I’m comfortable running him.’ So we keep him happy.”
“It might sound a bit strange,” added Attfield. “But we keep a lot of stuffed toys around him, it makes him happy. He lives outside a lot. He gets turned out a lot. I keep him in training even when I’m trying to give him an easy time because he enjoys it. We winter at Payson Park, and there I take him on trails and into the fields so he’s out of the racetrack, too. If I don’t think he’s his usual self, we won’t race him. But he’s happy. He tells me he enjoys it.”