Updated on 11/08/2011 3:47PM

Woodbine: Perfect Shirl gets break after Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf win

Tom Keyser
Perfect Shirl, under John Velazquez, wins the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at 27-1.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The six Woodbine-based horses who participated in the Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs last Friday and Saturday typified the highs and lows and everything in between.

Here are their stories.

Trainer Roger Attfield hadn’t pulled any punches heading into Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Fillies and Mares Turf, telling all and sundry that he didn’t believe the conditions would suit Perfect Shirl.

“I was just terrified about the going,” said Attfield, back at his Woodbine headquarters this week. “I was actually distraught, the day before the race, with the amount of rain we were getting. I thought I had no chance to show how good this filly was becoming. I knew she was sitting on a big race.”

Attfield’s concerns, of course, turned out to be unfounded as Perfect Shirl delivered the biggest win of his career in the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf, rallying to score by three-quarters of a length at almost 28-1 under a well-timed ride by John Velazquez.

“It makes you look a bit silly,” Attfield said. “I had reason to be concerned, off her previous races. But after a sixteenth of a mile, she was traveling well and I started to get excited. She handled this race better than any race in her life. Before, she was nervous in the paddock. She’s grown up finally, I think.”

Perfect Shirl, a 4-year-old who was bred in Kentucky by her owner, Chuck Fipke, has been sent to Attfield’s winter headquarters at Florida’s Payson Park.

“She needs a bit of a break,” Attfield said. “I haven’t got any definite schedule for her.”

Excaper best of North Americans

Excaper, sent off at 33-1 in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, finished second for Ian Black, who was making his Breeders’ Cup debut as a trainer. Rider Emma-Jayne Wilson, who had traveled down from Woodbine, also was enjoying her first Breeders’ Cup experience.

“I was very happy; Emma rode him exactly the way we’d talked about,” Black said. “We’d watched the fillies in the turf race the day before, and the first three or four were in contention all the way. Emma let him sit off the speed a bit, but those Europeans just keep running at you. The third horse was from over there, too, so we beat the rest of the North Americans.”

Excaper was back in his stall here late Sunday afternoon, and his next engagement has yet to be specified.

“My gut feeling would be to stay on the turf with him,” said Black, who also sent out Excaper to win his maiden and finish fourth in the Grey Stakes on the Polytrack surface here.

Excaper will be wintering in Florida, and the $100,000 Dania Beach, a one-mile turf race at Gulfstream Park on Dec. 18, could fit into his program.

Hard Not to Like missed break

Hard Not to Like, representing owner/breeder Garland Williamson and trainer Gail Cox, finished a creditable fifth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, beaten just three lengths under rider Mike Smith.

“Mike said she was kicking the gate and she missed the break a little bit, and she was a little farther back than we would have liked,” Cox said. “The turns are so tight there that the horses get bunched up. She was running wide and flattened out a little bit at the end. Those are great fillies, and it was her first time going two turns.”

Cox said that Hard Not to Like had handled the whole Breeders’ Cup experience in professional fashion.

“She was great,” Cox said. “She loved it there; she liked the action. There’s so much action, at all times.”

Hard Not to Like also has headed to the farm in Ocala, where she will be getting a bit of a breather.

“She’ll probably come over to me at Payson Park in late December and have a spring campaign,” Cox said.

Hard Not to Like is a Canadian-bred and the Woodbine Oaks, Canada’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies, is a logical target.

Slow start costs Grand Adventure

Grand Adventure had finished ninth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after breaking from the No. 11 post. He drew the rail this time and wound up 10th in the field of 14.

“He just missed the break and then he got shuffled back,” said Mark Frostad, who trains the 5-year-old Grand Adventure for Sam-Son Farm. “You can’t miss the break at five furlongs.”

Grand Adventure, a Kentucky-bred who was Canada’s champion turf male of 2010, is winless in seven starts this season after suffering a string of unfavorable trips.

“He’ll go straight down to Ocala,” said Frostad, who was heading back from Kentucky on Tuesday. “He’ll go to the farm for a rest. He may get to the Fair Grounds at some point.”

Casse has disappointing weekend

The stars did not align favorably for trainer Mark Casse at Churchill Downs as Northern Passion ended seventh of 14 in the Juvenile Fillies and Prospective finished last of 13 in the Juvenile.

Both Northern Passion and Prospective are owned by John Oxley and were coming off wins in Grade 3 stakes at Woodbine under Luis Contreras, who was making his Breeders’ Cup debut.

Northern Passion had earned a fees-paid berth in the Juvenile Fillies Turf in the Natalma, but tried dirt for the first time in the Juvenile Fillies.

“She kind of got shuffled back, was bumped a little bit, and stumbled slightly down the backstretch,” Casse said. “We caught a real drying-out track. She came back caked in mud.”

Northern Passion arrived in Ocala on Monday morning.

“We’ll give her a little rest and see how things play out over the winter,” Casse said. “Obviously, she’s Canadian-bred, and we’d be looking at running her in the [Woodbine] Oaks.”

Prospective also was trying dirt for the first time after winning the Grey on Polytrack.

“He was disappointing,” Casse said. “He was training so well going into the race.

“He’ll spend 30 days in Ocala. We’ll try to get him some sunshine, get him over being sick, and go from there.”

* Though neither is based at Woodbine, Court Vision and Turallure, the one-two finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile, both came out of the Woodbine Mile. Turallure, who was narrowly beaten in the BC Mile, won the Woodbine Mile while Court Vision was seventh.