11/24/2010 11:43AM

Attfield to watch final Woodbine starters from a distance

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Michael Burns
Sand Cove will be taking a third crack at the Sir Barton for trainer Roger Attfield.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Roger Attfield is busy setting up shop at his winter headquarters in Payson Park, Fla., following a business trip to Japan with the filly Ave and a brief holiday in Hawaii. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Attfield probably will not be seen here at Woodbine Racetrack until the Sovereign Award ceremony next April 1.

“I’m sending them out of there pretty quickly,” said Attfield. “There are not that many horses with races left, and some of their races aren’t going.”

Attfield does have a couple more stakes here circled on his calendar, however, with Sand Cove pointing for the $125,000 Sir Barton on Dec. 1 and Perfect Shower for the $150,000 Valedictory on closing day, Dec. 5.

Sand Cove, a 5-year-old horse owned by Ralph Johnson, has been a beaten choice in the last two editions of the Sir Barton but is looming a prohibitive favorite for his third crack at the 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 3-year-olds and upward.

Perfect Shower, a homebred 4-year-old colt who races for Charles Fipke, will be a longer chance for the 1 3/4-mile Valedictory for 3-year-olds and upward.

Victories by both Sand Cove and Perfect Shower would allow Attfield to equal the 14 stakes victories that he recorded at last year’s meeting. The major difference this season is that Attfield has saddled eight stakes winners south of the border, compared to just one in 2009.

Females have been responsible for six of Attfield’s road stakes scores, with Lady Shakespeare contributing a double before going to the sidelines early this summer and Perfect Shirl, Miss Keller, Ave, and Mekong Melody following with singles.

Ave started just once in Canada this year, and Lady Shakespeare did not see action at Woodbine. Miss Keller, Mekong Melody, and Perfect Shirl all made the three starts requisite for Sovereign Award consideration. While Perfect Shirl could be on the bubble, both Miss Keller and Mekong Melody are certain to be among the finalists.

Miss Keller, an Irish-bred 4-year-old, has been the most accomplished of the trio with a record of 3-2-2 and earnings of $553,453 from 8 starts.

After capturing the one-mile De La Rose at Saratoga this summer, Miss Keller was best in the Grade 2 Canadian and second in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor here before winding up her campaign with a four-length defeat as the ninth-place finisher in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Churchill Downs.

Miss Keller then was sold at auction in Kentucky, fetching $700,000 for owners Three Chimneys LLC, but fortuitously has wound up back in Attfield’s barn. She will return next spring at Keeneland, he said.

“A gentleman in England bought her, and some of the other syndicate members took shares,” said Attfield. “She’ll be coming down to me here a bit later on.

Mekong Melody, a 5-year-old who was bred in Ireland by her owner, David Egan, won 3 of her 5 starts and $331,200. After capturing the Grade 2 Dance Smartly and the Flaming Page here at Woodbine, Mekong Melody journeyed to Aqueduct and scored impressively in the Grade 3 Long Island at Aqueduct on Nov. 13.

“She won that very well,” said Attfield, who had been in Japan with Ave at the time. “David sent her from there down to Ocala. We’ll see whether he wants to breed her or carry on.”

Perfect Shirl, bred in Kentucky by her owner Fipke, became a stakes winner in the Grade 2 Lake George at Saratoga and then finished third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks.

Sent to Florida after ending last of 10 in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Keeneland, Perfect Shirl completed her campaign with earnings of $211,773 through a record of 3-1-2 from 8 starts.

“We thought we’d give her some time off, and start her back in January,” said Attfield.

Attfield also said that his stakes-placed 3-year-old filly No Explaining is on a similar timetable after finishing third in the Grade 3 Valley View at Keeneland on Oct. 22.

Ave ended 16th of 17 in the the Queen Elizabeth II Commemorative Cup in Kyoto. She had earned an invitation via her victory in Belmont’s Grade 1 Flower Bowl.

“She had the 16-hole, and was hung out the whole trip,” said Attfield. “She never saw daylight.”

Ave, owned by Three Chimneys LLC, had been scheduled to sell at Keeneland in November and now is in the catalog for the January sale.

Meanwhile, Lady Shakespeare is with Attfield in Florida with an eye toward a 5-year-old campaign.

“She’d started hand-walking at Woodbine, and she’s back in training here,” said Attfield, who conditions the Kentucky-bred Lady Shakespeare for owner/breeder Fipke.

Frostad has starters at Fair Grounds

Trainer Mark Frostad will be sending out his first starter of the Fair Grounds meeting with Forest Uproar set to go postward under second-level allowance terms in an about 1 1/16-mile turf race for fillies and mares on Friday.

Forest Uproar, a homebred 4-year-old who races for Sam-Son Farm, finished third in the Wonder Where, Ontario Colleen and Carotene here last season and returned from a year’s absence to romp in a first-level allowance over one mile of turf at Keeneland on Oct. 22.

Now and Forever, a 4-year-old filly who had been trained by Donnie Von Hemel, will be making her first start for Malcolm Pierce’s barn in the same race.

Harvest Home, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Sam-Son and trained by Frostad, has been entered in a first-level allowance race at about 1 1/16 miles the turf at the Fair Grounds on Saturday. The outing is the first for Harvest Home since he won his maiden over one mile of turf here Aug. 8.