12/05/2008 1:00AM

Attfield concludes another strong season


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Trainer Roger Attfield has been extremely busy the last couple of weeks at his off-season base of Payson Park, where he has 35 horses, with five more to come following the conclusion of the meeting here Sunday.

But Attfield will be back in town Friday for the 34th annual Sovereign Awards, where he will be front and center as a finalist in the trainer category and for his divisional candidates Not Bourbon and Callwood Dancer.

"I think it was a very good year," said Attfield, who already has been the recipient of the Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer on six occasions.

"I won a lot of different stakes, with different horses. And winning the Queen's Plate - it was huge, to get that eighth win."

Attfield recorded his record-tying eighth Queen's Plate victory with Not Bourbon, who also won the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial, seven-furlong Queenston, and seven-furlong Overskate and is up for honors in the 3-year-old colt or gelding category.

Callwood Dancer, winner of the Grade 2 Nassau and second in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes, is a finalist in the turf female division.

The other stakes wins for Attfield, who will finish as the leader in that category with 12 heading into the weekend, came from the 3-year-old Sand Cove, with three; older horses Society's Chairman and Palladio; older mare Quelle Beaute; and 3-year-old filly Hello Maggie May.

"There's always a weakness," said Attfield. "It's hard to get a horse for every category. My 2-year-olds were backward; that was my weak division. They're going to be good 3-year-olds, if they're going to be anything."

Attfield also had his personal Achilles heel this season, as he smashed that part of his foot at Payson Park late last December and developed a serious infection that severely restricted his movement until June.

Attfield will be looking to wind up his Woodbine meeting on a high note with Include Us, who is among 13 entrants in Sunday's 1 3/4-mile Valedictory.

A 4-year-old gelding owned by Attfield in partnership with Mickey Canino and Bill Werner, Include Us was well-regarded in spring 2007 and ran in the Queen's Plate despite being a maiden after six starts.

Include Us finished fifth in the Queen's Plate, beaten just 4 1/2 lengths, but emerged from the race with a broken foot.

"Usually, they take a long time to come back from something like that," Attfield said.

"He actually came back at Payson Park . . . this winter. He was going to start at Keeneland; that was the whole intention. But then he pulled a ligament and needed time to get over that."

Include Us finally resurfaced here Oct. 12, more than 15 months after the Queen's Plate. And after finishing off the board in a pair of maiden turf races over one mile, Include Us exploded for a 9 3/4-length victory over 1 1/8 miles on the main track here Nov. 27.

"Those two mile races were too short for him, but he needed them to get fit," Attfield said. "He doesn't do much in the morning; he wasn't getting enough out of his works."

Attfield acknowledges that Include Us will have to prove he belongs in the Valedictory but that the option makes sense considering the circumstances.

"He has a pedigree to run all day long and he won quite nicely," Attfield said.

"Once he leaves and come down here to Florida, he's going to run this winter. He's only just started back."

Attfield plans limited Gulfstream action

Attfield is not particularly keen on running horses at Gulfstream Park but still expects to be something of a presence there.

"Hopefully, I'll run there with some of my nice stakes horses," Attfield said. "But I'll have to run some maidens there who are close to starting.

"With the purses they have at Woodbine, it's hard to run horses down here and lose your conditions. It's hard to get somebody's investment back."

Not Bourbon and Sand Cove, who are still at Woodbine, will be on the last van leaving for Florida and are not scheduled to see action this winter.

Casse tops Woodbine trainer standings

Attfield, with 45 wins and purses of more than $4.1 million with three cards remaining, will finish fourth or fifth in races won and second in money won at Woodbine.

Mark Casse is the runaway leader in both of those categories for the second straight season, with 74 wins and purses of more than $5.6 million heading into Friday's card.

In 2007, Casse finished with 84 wins and more than $5.7 million.

Casse also is up for his third straight award as outstanding trainer and has divisional finalists in Sealy Hill, turf female; Seaside Retreat, turf male; and Marchfield, older male.

"Two months ago, I didn't think there was any chance of us repeating," Casse said. "But the last couple of months, things have picked up a little bit.

Casse was the top stakes-winning trainer at the 2007 meeting, with 13 wins and he had three stakes winners south of the border. This year, the trainer has won nine stakes, all locally.

"We had a lot of misses," said Casse, whose stakes entrants finished either second or third on 31 occasions from 102 North American starts.

"It's probably been the toughest year we've had in a long time. We had injuries that hurt us, horses getting sick. We never did get into a real groove. But we still have a month left."

Casse has divisions at Fair Grounds, where he is off to a good start, and also has a presence in California for the first time.

"We did well at Saratoga and Churchill and we're doing really well in New Orleans," he said. "It says a lot to the quality of the Woodbine horse."