07/03/2014 10:42AM

Attards compete for family bragging rights in Queen's Plate

Michael Burns
Trainer Sid Attard will send out Cap in Hand in the Queen's Plate against his two son's respective entries, Paul Attard's Niigon Express and Jamie Attard's Lion's Bay.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Hall of Fame trainer Sid Attard has had an accomplished career, winning more than 1,800 races and 84 stakes, but he’ll be searching for his first Queen’s Plate victory Sunday, when he starts Cap in Hand for the Tucci Stable.

Cap in Hand will be Attard’s fifth Queen’s Plate starter, but this year’s race will be a family affair, as Attard will see his horse line up against horses trained by his sons, Paul and Jamie Attard, who both will be participating in their first Queen’s Plate. Paul Attard will start Niigon Express for Chiefswood Stable, while Jamie Attard will saddle Lions Bay for the Earle family.

Sid Attard, 63, said the family atmosphere has been light heading into the race.

“I think it’s fun,” he said. “It’s been lots of fun so far. We’re just joking around about it.”

[Queen’s Plate: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live]

Sid Attard worked for his brother, trainer Joe Attard, for several years after moving to Canada from Malta and began training on his own in 1977. He’s won several key Woodbine stakes races, including the 2001 Atto Mile with Numerous Times and the 2002 Woodbine Oaks with Ginger Gold.

His barn has always had a place for sons Paul, 32, and Jamie, 26, who grew up working as hot-walkers and grooms. Both Paul and Jamie spent several years as their father’s assistant before going off on their own – Paul in 2002 and Jamie in 2012.

“When they were 9 years old, they were walking horses on the weekend and working in the summer when they were off school,” Sid Attard said. “They’ve done very well. They caught on really quickly.”

Paul Attard, the oldest of Sid Attard’s three children, worked for his father for a couple of years before Sid Attard sent out his first Queen’s Plate horse, Grand Hooley, to a second-place finish behind Alydeed in 1992.

“I was always around, but I don’t think I was really that into it until [the 1992 Queen’s Plate],” Paul Attard said. “Then, a couple of years after that, we had a horse named Finesse Boy, just a cheap horse, but he was a grinder. Those two horses got me excited about the game, and I got a little more serious about it at that time.”

Paul Attard now manages a stable of 30 horses, half of whom are owned by Chiefswood Stable, and he has won 190 races, including eight stakes.

Both Paul and Jamie Attard attended classes at Humber College but opted to return to the racetrack once their studies were complete.

“I think one of the reasons I chose [Humber College] was because it was close to the track,” Paul Attard said. “My mother said we could come to Woodbine if we wanted to, but we had to have a college education, and I respect that.”

But while they were in school, Paul and Jamie Attard couldn’t stay away from Woodbine.

“Even when I was still [in school], I would always come to the track,” Jamie Attard said. “Dad would call me and say, ‘We’re claiming one. Come pick it up.’ And I’d run across to the track when class was over.”

Jamie Attard’s first Queen’s Plate horse has come in just his third season of training. He not only will send out his first Queen’s Plate starter but his first stakes starter Sunday.

“It’s very surreal in a way,” Jamie Attard said. “I’m really appreciative of the owners giving me a chance. It hasn’t quite hit me yet.”

Jamie Attard’s stable is growing in size every season. After starting off with one horse in 2012, he saw his barn increase to five horses last season, and this year, he manages eight horses. He’s already recorded eight wins in 41 career starts.

But occasionally, he still turns to his father for advice. Jamie Attard’s eight horses reside in Barn 7 on the Woodbine backstretch, a short walk away from his father’s stable in Barn 6.

“Whenever I have a question, the first thing I do is ask myself, ‘What would Dad do in this situation?’ ” Jamie Attard said. “When I decide, I go over and ask him. I don’t tell him what I think first, but I will ask him for his opinion. If he says the same thing I thought of, that way, I know I’m coming along.”

Not only will Sunday’s Queen’s Plate help one Attard earn family bragging rights, but there’s a little extra riding on the race for Paul and Jamie.

“Jamie and I are going to bet a round of golf on it, horse for horse,” Paul Attard said.

But they all agreed on one ideal result.

“I’d love to see the Attard triactor – with Lions Bay on top, of course,” Jamie Attard said.