08/18/2009 11:00PM

Atta Boy Roy shows gameness to match speed


AUBURN, Wash. - Considering the circumstances, Atta Boy Roy was surprisingly chipper Monday morning, less than 24 hours after his fifth-place finish in the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

The front-running 4-year-old colt used every last ounce of his speed while setting a suicidal pace in the Mile. Only in the final 100 yards did he yield, and stubbornly at that, to finish 1 3/4 lengths behind the winner, Assessment, and three others in a crowded scene at the wire.

Adding injury to insult, Atta Boy Roy threw his left front shoe during the race, exposing a quarter crack and damaging soft tissue in the foot. It was a whirlwind journey for Atta Boy Roy, jockey Ricky Frazier, and trainer Valorie Lund, who was seeking her first Mile victory.

"I had mixed emotions after the race," Lund said Tuesday. "I was very proud of my horse. He ran a truly amazing race. No doubt, the fractions were too fast. No matter how fast the racetrack, those fractions were unlivable. Things unfolded a little different from our original plan, but you take your lumps in this game. You never know what's going to happen when the gates open."

Lund and Frazier anticipated a speed duel, but when Kruger Park, a two-time sprint-stakes winner at the meeting, failed to break alertly, Atta Boy Roy shot to an easy lead around the clubhouse turn and into the backstretch. But then the fractions came up on the tote board - 21.80 for the quarter, 44 flat for a half-mile - and Lund sensed Atta Boy Roy was sprinting toward his own demise.

"In the morning, we discussed if Crafty Power and Kruger Park got away good and were going 21 or so, we were going to tuck in," she said of a prerace planning session with Frazier. "Unfortunately, Kruger Park didn't run his race and we found ourselves on the lead. I think maybe Ricky misjudged the pace a little because we could have collected up on the backside and saved things. But Atta Boy Roy is easy to misjudge because he has such a big stride. I was amazed at how he finished; we only got beat a length and three quarters."

Atta Boy Roy held a three-length lead after barreling through six furlongs in 1:07.60, just .20 off his own track record, and clung to a diminishing lead at the furlong marker after running seven furlongs in 1:20.20. It was a sensational display of speed and courage, even if the wheels, and that troublesome shoe, came off in the final yards.

"He runs in a bar shoe because of the quarter crack, and somewhere in the race he pulled the shoe, which makes it even gamer, to run on that quarter crack without a shoe," Lund said. "Sunday night, we bandaged his foot up and packed it with antibiotics. On Monday morning, he was in really good spirits, so all things considered, I think we escaped very luckily. I don't think we'll have to turn him out."

Atta Boy Roy threw a shoe from the same foot in the Luke Kruytbosch Memorial at Turf Paradise last October and missed two months, but Lund said the current injury shouldn't prevent him from making a fourth and final start at the meeting. And what a meeting it has been: He equaled the six-furlong track record of 1:07.40 in his Emerald Downs debut June 6, and then won the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap in 1:14.20 - running six furlongs in 1:07.80 - before his valiant effort in the Mile.

"We're shooting for the Chinook Pass Sprint on Sept. 13," Lund said.

And then?

"I'd love to be going to the Breeders' Cup with him," she said. "I'd love to put him in the Sprint. He's run three sub-1:08s in a row. He's legitimate, you know?"

Atta Boy Roy earned $7,500 for his fifth-place finish, lifting his career bankroll past $100,000 for owners Roy and Ellie Schaefer or Port Orchard, Wash. They had a throng of supporters in the paddock before the race, and more than 100 friends and family partied into the night at Lund's barn on the Emerald backside. It was a thrilling Mile, if not a winning one.

"He ran an absolutely astounding race," Lund said. "It's a shame, because I think we had the best horse."

Rough journey for Gallon

Gallon, eighth in the Mile, is resting at Homestretch Farms near Emerald Downs, his next start to be determined. The 2008 Emerald Derby winner had an eventful trip and flattened out in the final furlong after rallying from 10th in a 12-horse field.

"They came over him in the first turn, he got bumped and his rear end hit the rail. He lost about four lengths," said Kay Cooper, who runs day-to-day operations for trainer Jim Penney. "He went bounce, bounce, and after that, I think he had too much ground to make up. He was tired after the race, but he came out of it fine."