ARCADIA, Calif. — He's won the King's Plate, Woodbine Oaks and Prince of Wales Stakes but a Breeders' Cup victory would be a crowning achievement for Canadian trainer Kevin Attard.
"Being Canadian, the King's Plate means a lot," Attard said. "But if you get lucky enough to win a Breeders' Cup, that might surpass the Plate just because you're on a world stage.
"If you're a hockey player, at the end of the day that's what you're looking at, right, to play in the NHL. The Breeders' Cup, that's the ultimate goal."
Attard will return to the Breeders' Cup with Moira, the filly that won the '22 King's Plate en route to being named Canada's horse of the year. Moira was fifth in last year's Filly & Mare Turf at Keeneland _ rallying from last in the 12-horse field _ and will again run in the US$2-million 1 1/4-mile race Saturday at Santa Anita.
Attard said Moira — named after Catharine O'Hara's character Moira Rose on the TV series "Schitt's Creek" — has settled in well in her new surroundings in California.
"She's a little bit of a quirky horse so just to see her ship as well as she has is a good sign," he said. "She's with people she’s familiar with and that gives her a sense of home.
"The team spends a lot of time with these horses and gets to know them really well, and know the ins and out of them. It always helps to have familiar faces."
The four-year-old Ontario-bred has raced five times this year, never finishing out of the money (1-3-1). Overall, Moira has five wins from 12 lifetime starts with earnings over $1.2 million.
Moira, an early 12-1 pick, will break from the No. 4 post with Flavien Prat aboard. The expectation is for a firm turf Saturday.
"In her last race back home (Woodbine Racetrack) we had quite a bit of rain," Attard said. "The turf had a bit of give, especially this time of year when it cools off and doesn’t dry out as quick.
"So, coming out here on the firm going was a big enticement."
Saturday's field will also feature Fev Rover, an Irish-bred five-year-old trained by Mark Casse, 15 times Canada's top conditioner. Rev Rover has finished in the money 13 times (six wins, four seconds, three thirds) in 19 career starts.
Last month, Rev Rover earned a 1 1/4-length win in the $650,000 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine with jockey Javier Castellano. Castellano will be aboard Saturday when Rev Rover — an early 8-1 pick — breaks from the No, 8 post
"She has beaten most of the best horses in the U.S.," Casse said. "Now she has to deal with Europe.
"This will be a little different."
But Casse was upbeat about Rev Rover's victory in the E.P. Taylor Stakes.
"We saw the real Rev Rover in the E.P. Taylor," he said. "For sure, I am optimistic.
"I've taken some good horses to the Breeders' Cup and this one a happy girl."
Casse, who has won six career Breeders' Cup race, will also have two Ontario-bred horses in the Breeder's Cup — My Boy Prince in the juvenile turf and Lucky Score in the mile.
Shirl's Speight, trained by Hall of Famer Roger Attfield, returns to the Breeders Cup Mile following last year's second-place finish at 55-1 odds. The six-year-old, owned and bred by Canadian Charles Fipke, is a 30-1 morning selection and drew the No. 1 post.
"He shipped very well, he's a bit fresh and is training really well here," Attfield said. "He’s pretty level-headed, this horse."
Shirl's Speight has five wins from 18 career starts. The horse was a solid second behind Irish-bred Master of the Seas in the Woodbine Mile on Sept. 16.
Attfield has won a record-tying eight King's Plate titles in Canada. The 83-year-old trainer is a member of both the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.
John Velazquez will ride Shirl's Speight on Saturday.
"I find it interesting that he's the odds he is," Attfield said. "To me it didn't make much sense but I don't worry about it too much.
"That said, I'm not super happy (about No. 1 post) . . . Johnny has ridden so many great races in his life and for me so I trust me will make the right moves. What I'd really like to see him do is be able to come running with a quarter-mile, straight run with nothing getting in his way."
Shirl's Speight is the son of two Breeders' Cup champions — '04 Sprint winner Speightstown and '11 Filly & Mare Turf victor Perfect Shirl, who provided Attfield with his only victory in 18 Breeders' Cup starts.
Attfield-conditioned horses have finished second three times at the Breeders' Cup and third on two other occasions.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2023.
The Canadian Press