06/06/2011 12:42PM

Woodbine: Attfield eyes ninth Queen's Plate win with Check Your Soul

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Michael Burns
Check Your Soul wins the Plate Trial at Woodbine by 3 1/4 lengths.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Trainer Roger Attfield took a giant step toward what could be a record ninth Queen’s Plate victory last Sunday when he sent out Check Your Soul for a convincing 3 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial.

Five of Attfield’s seven previous Plate Trial victors went on to double up in the 1 1/4-mile Queen’s Plate, with the most recent being Not Bourbon in 2008.

And while Check Your Soul would appear to be in a very good position to go down that road, he entered his sophomore campaign as an unknown and his rise has been little short of meteoric.

“He came up from Florida last year, and his ankles always looked a little bit suspect,” said Attfield, who trains the homebred Check Your Soul for Charles Fipke, also the owner and breeder of Not Bourbon. “We X-rayed him, found a chip in one ankle, and took it out. I’d wanted to give him a lot of time, because he was a big horse, so it was probably a blessing in disguise.

Check Your Soul was with Attfield at Payson Park this winter and journeyed down to Gulfstream for his first start, finishing a close eighth in a maiden race over one mile of turf.

“I wanted to run him two turns, and I didn’t want to run him on dirt,” Attfield said.

His second start, over 1 1/16 miles of grass, came at Keeneland, and Check Your Soul rallied to win by a nose.

“Most turf horses like the Polytrack, anyway,” Attfield said.

Check Your Soul certainly has taken to the synthetic surface here as he overcame a slow start and a wide trip to capture the 1 1/16-mile Wando in his local bow under new rider Patrick Husbands.

While Check Your Soul’s Plate Trial beginning also was less than auspicious, Attfield’s reaction was not what might have been anticipated.

“I was delighted,” he said. “Patrick had wanted to have him up close, going into the first turn. When he broke in the air like that, Patrick had the sense to ride him the way he did. I really preferred to see the horse run the way he did. He showed what he’s capable of, and he won under a hand ride.”

Check Your Soul earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 89 for his Plate Trial win, up from a 74 in the Wando.

But Beyers aside, Attfield does not believe the horse needs another large step forward to be a major threat in the Queen’s Plate.

“I’ll school him quite a bit,” Attfield said. “All he’s got to do is stay healthy, and well, and happy. He’s still maturing big time. He’s a very tall horse, and he’s starting to thicken out.”

Bowman’s Causeway, second in the Plate Trial when making his first start since finishing up the track in the April 3 Florida Derby, was on his way back to Saratoga and trainer Chad Brown on Monday.

“We should be back for the Queen’s Plate,” said assistant trainer Jason Desilets, who was here with Bowman’s Causeway.

Strike Oil and Hippolytus, both trained by Mark Casse, finished third and fourth, respectively, and remain in the Queen’s Plate hunt.

“I thought they both ran well,” Casse said. “I know both horses will go a mile and a quarter. For $1 million, you’ve got to give it a shot.”

The major disappointment of the Plate Trial was Bear’s Chill, who was the 9-5 choice and led around the final turn but was under siege at the top of the stretch and faltered to finish last in the nine-horse field.

“He ran the same race as he did in Florida, around two turns on a hot day,” said trainer Reade Baker, who had watched Bear’s Chill finished fourth when traveling 1 1/16 miles on turf at Gulfstream Park in his longest test prior to the Plate Trial. “He’s not a two-turn horse, in my opinion.”

Baker has penciled in the July 2 Achievement, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds, as the next target for Bear’s Chill.