09/14/2009 11:00PM

Black looking like a million (again)

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Michael Burns Photo
Trainer Ian Black (left) will be seeking his third victory in the $1 million Woodbine Mile with Rahy's Attorney.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Most trainers go through their entire careers without getting a serious shot at a $1 million dollar race. And then there's Ian Black, who is in his fifth campaign as a trainer here at Woodbine and will be seeking his third win in a $1 million race when he saddles Rahy's Attorney for Sunday's Woodbine Mile.

Black sent out Mike Fox to win the Queen's Plate in 2007, and Rahy's Attorney will be attempting to become the first repeat winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile.

"Two $1 million races, and two $2 million seasons," said Black. "It's all beyond my expectations, obviously."

It's not as if Black is a greenhorn when he comes to the racing game, however. He is 65 years old, and spent some 40 years as a farm manager, including a 30-year term with the powerful Kinghaven Farm outfit.

During his years at Kinghaven, Black oversaw the foaling and raising of superstars such as Izvestia, With Approval, Play the King, Alywow, and a host of other stakes horses.

"Those were the greatest years of my life, the late 1980s and early 1990s," said Black.

But Kinghaven began downsizing its operation heading into this century, and Black came to a crossroads about five years back.

"I got the distinct feeling I'd need something to do," said Black. "The opportunities were limited. At my age, it's not that I was going to get a farm manager's job like the one I'd be coming out of."

Roger Attfield, who trained the Kinghaven horses through the glory years, had developed a solid base of outside clients by the time 2005 rolled around. And, Black was in Kentucky that January with Kinghaven owner David Willmot when the subject of his becoming a trainer was broached.

The idea became a reality and on May 1, 2005. Black saddled his first starter and first winner when Kinghaven's Brandy Lake captured a maiden race here.

"I only had six stalls that year," said Black, who finished the season with 3 wins from 26 starts.

His numbers improved the following year as Black, working with his son-in-law and assistant Jeff Bowen, fashioned a 10-for-76 record highlighted by a stakes win with Seductively. But his breakthrough came in 2007 when he took over as the trainer of Mike Fox in mid-April and guided him to an upset score in the June 24 Queen's Plate.

Later that summer a homebred Ontario-sired gelding named Rahy's Attorney, racing for Joe and Ellen MacLellan and some of their family and friends, began to blossom for Black and won the restricted Vice Regent and Bunty Lawless over one mile of turf. When Rahy's Attorney continued to improve last spring, upsetting the Grade 3 Connaught Cup over 1 1/16 miles of turf, Black began envisioning a grander plan.

"I never realized he was going to turn out the way he did," said Black. "Being Ontario-sired, there were very limited opportunities on grass. That's why we went to the Connaught Cup."

Rahy's Attorney went on to run in another pair of graded turf stakes, finishing second in the 1 1/2-mile Singspiel and fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Nijinsky.

"I thought he was better going shorter," said Black.

He consulted with the MacLellans and decided to take Rahy's Attorney to the Woodbine Mile. Rahy's Attorney in his Grade 1 debut. Sent away at 12-1 under regular rider Slade Callaghan, Rahy's Attorney was the toast of the town following his rather unexpected success.

The situation has been different this season, as Rahy's Attorney was pegged as a leading contender for this year's Woodbine Mile before he ever came back from his winter vacation. While his campaign seemed to be unfolding as it should following his wins in the 1 1/8-mile here on Aug. 23. Black said he isn't sure why Rahy's Attorney ran so poorly.

"He ran one of his lesser races last time, and I still can't put my finger on it," said Black. "Maybe it was the pace, or the going, or the distance. All I know is he's trained back really sharp."

Black acknowledges that Rahy's Attorney may have to exceed last year's heroics to pull off the Woodbine Mile double. The 2008 Woodbine Mile attracted only two shippers in Kip Deville and Ventura, and Sunday's renewal promises to attract a larger and deeper field.

Ventura is back and has enhanced her credentials since her appearances here last year, having won the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint and the Grade 1 Santa Monica at Santa Anita. Bribon, a New York-based 6-year-old who has had the Woodbine Mile as his goal following his win in this spring's , is on target after winning his prep over one mile of turf at Saratoga. Ferneley, a Grade 2 turf winner over one mile in California, and Daylight Express, who has been wowing them in the Barbados, are the other invaders expected to be in the lineup.

The local contingent is stronger as well. Joining Rahy's Attorney as legitimate threats will be Jungle Wave and Field Commission, the one-two finishers in the seven-furlong , plus the multiple stakes winner Sterwins and the lightly raced but highly promising 3-year-old Grand Adventure.

But while Black is not exactly brimming with confidence, he is prepared for the high expectations part of the lot of the trainer, something he has been well aware of since leaving his farm manager's life.

"With 30 to 40 mares at times, and yearlings to prepare, there was a lot of responsibility," said Black. "The day-to-day stuff between that and being a trainer isn't that different. But going over there in the afternoons, there's more pressure to produce."