Musketier A Happy Camper For Attfield
By Ed Gray
HALLANDALE BEACH, FL - Musketier will be happy to make his 37th start in Saturday’s $150,000 Pan American (G3) at Gulfstream Park – his trainer will make sure of it.
Keeping him happy has been Roger Attfield’s main focus since he took over his training in 2007, and the 9-year-old turf warrior has responded to make his trainer happy to have him in his barn. Had it not been for Attfield’s patience and tender loving care, Musketier wouldn’t still be racing and running against graded-stakes company.
Scheduled to take over the training of the German-bred horse from French trainer Pascal Barry following the Red Smith (G2) Handicap at Aqueduct in the fall of 2007, Attfield had to wait more than 15 months to saddle him for a race due to a condylar fracture of a high leg suffered during his third-place finish in his North American debut.
‘It took me a little time to get him back together and learn about how he wanted to train. It’s been an interesting project. I’m very fond of the horse,” said the 71-year-old Attfield, who has saddled the winners of 1647 races and more than $86 million in purses. “We’ve definitely given him time between his races. You’ve got to keep him right and keep him happy.”
Musketier made his debut for Attfield at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 28, 2009, finishing a close third in an allowance race. The German-bred son of Acatenango went on to finish second in the Elkhorn (G2) at Keeneland in his next start and two starts later won the Singspiel (G3) at Woodbine, his first graded-stakes victory since winning the Prix de Conde (G3) at Longchamp in 2004. He then stepped up to Grade 1 company to finish second behind eventual champion Gio Ponti in the Man O’ War at Belmont.
Musketier benefited from a six-month break that followed a pair of off-the-board finishes in Grade 1 races to win the Elkorn (G2) first start back last April. He completed his two-race 2010 season with a third-place finish in the Sycamore (G3) at Keeneland last October and returned to action at Gulfstream in a third-place finish in the Mac Diarmida (G2) on Feb. 19.
Attfield has been racing Musketier exclusively at distances of 1-3/8 miles and 1-1/2 miles, over which the Pan American will be run.
“I think the horse would be effective at a mile and an eighth if I took the time to prepare him to a race like that. But he’s been running at a mile and a half and a mile and three eighths, and he’s been happy doing that,” Attfield said. “I think the hardest thing on the longevity of a horse is sprinting. The longer races are easier on them I believe.”
While Attfield has enjoyed much success with older turf horses like Musketier during his career, he’s also proven adept at getting the most out of young horses like Smart Sting. The latter looked like a future turf star while winning an entry-level allowance race in her second lifetime start at Gulfstream on March 16.
“She was actually favored in a stake in the fall at Woodbine, but the day of the race she had a little infection and we had to scratch her. We brought her down there for a turf race with high hopes and it got rained out. So it was nice to go back down there and actually do what we thought we could do the first time. I think she has a nice future,” said Attfield, who trained three Canadian Triple Crown champions, With Approval, Izvestia and Peteski, who were three of his eight Queen’s Plate winners.
Smart Sting, who was sired by Smart Strike, is a daughter of Perfect Sting, the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Turf winner and Eclipse Award champion.
“She always looked very exciting during her breezes as a 2-year-old. It was obvious that she had talent. We’ve always really, really liked her,” Attfield said. “We’ll probably let her run in a condition (allowance) and then go slowly from there.”