02/24/2012 4:03PM

Gulfstream: Mac Diarmida contender Musketier remains top-shelf turfer at 10


HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Musketier must be a happy horse. If he wasn’t, trainer Roger Attfield wouldn’t have brought the veteran back to run again at the age of 10 for a campaign that will begin in Sunday’s $150,000 Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park.

Musketier will make his 45th career start in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida. His 44th was one of his best yet, resulting in a half-length victory over stablemate Simmard in Calder’s Grade 2 W.L. McKnight in his 2011 finale. Simmard will also be among the 10 long-winded turf specialists signed on for the 1 3/8-mile Mac Diarmida.

[MORE: PPs and video previews for the Sunday card at Gulfstream Park]

Musketier, who finished a late-running third in last year’s edition of the Mac Diarmida, had arguably his best year yet in 2011. A German-bred son of Acatenango owned by Stella Perdomo, Musketier posted three graded victories and banked nearly $350,000 on the year, adding the McKnight to earlier wins in the Grade 3 Singspiel at Woodbine and Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland. All three of his stakes wins came at 1 1/2 miles.

“I’ve had some horses perform at this level up to maybe 8-years-old but never this age,” said Attfield. “I’ve talked it over with his owners and they’ve said if he’s happy what he’s doing go ahead and race him at 10.”

Attfield first acquired Musketier as a 5-year-old when he came to the U.S. from France to run in the Red Smith. He came out of that race with a condylar fracture that required surgery.

“The secret to older horses is to keep them happy and healthy,” said Attfield. “But competing at the graded stakes level at the age of 9 is really an accomplishment.”

Simmard is still going strong himself at the age of 7. Unfortunately, he has not been able to match strides with Musketier in each of their last five meetings, including the 2011 Mac Diarmida, when he finished seventh after lagging far back to the stretch.

Eagle Poise and Minister Colin will seek their third straight wins on Sunday.

Eagle Poise is one of two horses trainer Graham Motion will saddle in the race, along with Crimson China. Eagle Poise held on gamely to register a head decision in Woodbine’s Grade 3, 1 3/4-mile Valedictory to close out his brief but successful 2011 campaign. Minister Colin has risen out of the claiming ranks for trainer Tom Proctor and will get a class check trying stakes company for the first time.

Dixie Emperor is the biggest question mark, making both his U.S. and turf debut in the race. The Kentucky-bred Dixie Emperor is a multiple Group 1 winner in South America on dirt.

Newsdad, an easy allowance winner here around three turns one month ago. The multiple graded stakes winner Mambo Meister, the multiple graded stakes-placed Center Divider, and Middie complete the field.