Payson Winner Of The Week
Lea left no doubts he's back, posting an impressive 1/2-length victory over Confrontation to take the $150,000 Hal's Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 10.
Owned by Adele Dilschneider and Caliborne Farm, Lea was making his first start since taking last year's $500,000 Donn Handicap (gr. I) on Feb. 9 at Gulfstream. Getting up in the final strides to post the decision in his return, the 6-year-old son of First Samurai proved he should be a strong factor in the handicap division if he stays healthy in 2015.
"On this track I think it was an exceptional race," winning trainer Bill Mott said. "Usually the speed horses turn for home and they get loose from you, but he obviously is a good horse. I thought he was pretty fit, but he'd still been off a year. There's nothing like having a race. You can train one all day long, but you have to give a lot of credit to the horse to be able to come off that kind of a layoff and get the job done."
After taking the Hal's Hope last year, Lea went on to take the 1 1/8-mile Donn in a track record time of 1:46.86, defeating Travers' winner Will Take Charge . He seemed poised to be a top threat among older horses until a virus sidelined him the entire year.
Early in life, Roger Attfield was the sort of kid who would look wistfully out the school window and think of animals, horses or farming. Especially horses.
Obviously, he has a way with them. It's as if he speaks their language, knows how to coax the best out of them. And now the 72-year-old thoroughbred trainer, who is based at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, has received the ultimate reward: He will be inducted into the U. S. National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The ceremony will take place Aug. 10 at Saratoga, the mecca of all top horsemen in the United States. And now he belongs there. After winning just about every major race in Canada multiple times, last November he won his first Breeders' Cup race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with 27-to-1 shot Perfect Shirl.
"I was so happy for him," said Richard Dos Ramos, a Woodbine jockey who has ridden many long-shot winners for Attfield over the years. "He's well deserved of it. He always wanted to get a Breeders' Cup and that was fantastic to see. The filly probably ran the best race of her life at the right time. He makes them peak at the right time.
"When you're coming up to big races like the Queen's Plate, or any type of big race like that, his horses are always usually right there and they seem to step up."
Attfield was born in Newbury, England, where he worked as a show-jumping rider and an amateur steeplechase jockey. He was the son of a coal merchant who didn't have the means to outfit him with ponies to ride, so Attfield got his fix by riding horses for other people.