ORONTO– Dual hall of fame trainer Roger Attfield won his 2,000th career race when 5-2 Lady Speightspeare dead-heated with 3-1 Crystal Cliffs (FR) in the Grade 2 $176,550 Nassau Stakes, Saturday at Woodbine.
Bred and owned by Charles Fipke, and with Emma-Jayne Wilson in the irons, Lady Speightspeare assumed early command in the one-mile race contested over a firm E.P. Taylor Turf Course, as Dreaming of Drew forced the issue from the outside.
Taking the 11-horse field through an opening quarter in :23.26, Lady Speightspeare, a four-year-old daughter of Speightstown-Lady Shakespeare, was running comfortably on the front end, as Rafael Hernandez, aboard Crystal Cliffs, settled his charge into fifth spot.
Still calling the shots after a half-mile in :45.85, Lady Speightspeare was under siege around the turn for home as Our Flash Drive and Plum Ali came calling. Hernandez had rallied Crystal Cliffs to the outside and began to pick up ground on the lead trio.
It set the stage for a captivating tussle to the wire as Lady Speightspeare, who lost the lead but fought back, and a hard-charging Crystal Cliffs gave the crowd a sensational show, tying for top spot in the race fillies and mares, four-year-olds and up. Our Flash Drive was third and Plum Ali fourth.
The final time was 1:32.40.
“It’s great, isn’t it?” said Attfield, one of Thoroughbred racing’s most decorated conditioners, who counts a record-tying (Harry Giddings Jr.) eight Queen’s Plate victories among his numerous triumphs. “I’ve never really thought too much about it until just recently when it’s been so much written about it. I don’t know where it works out on the amount of runners I’ve had, but you know, lots of people have won 2,000 races, but most of them run a lot of horses too. So, I’m very proud of it. And you know, it’s been it’s been a good travel.
“She’s an interesting filly to train and she was unlucky this winter,” said Attfield of Lady Speightspeare. “She had a lot of different things happen that people didn’t really know about. And then Churchill was a disaster with that turf course. It’s funny really because the jockey that rode her came back and said, you know, she wasn’t having it with the turf course, the turf course was too loose, and then it turned out that it wasn’t really ready to run, I guess. But anyway, all that said, I’m very proud of her and she trained well into this race and I’m delighted. I didn’t think I got beaten to be honest with you when I was watching. I didn’t know it was going to be a photo.”
Wilson, the regular rider of the multiple graded stakes winner, who is now 5-1-2 from 10 career starts, was thrilled to deliver Attfield with his milestone moment.
“Leave it to Mr. Roger Attfield, dual Hall of Famer, to have his 2,000th victory have an epic story behind it. Roger, he’s legendary, and you know this filly is pretty special. She’s tries her guts out all winter, to come back home, when I started walking to the walking ring underneath the willows at Woodbine, I said to Roger, ‘She looks happy to be home.’ And he said, ‘Yes, she does.’ She ran a gangbuster of a race. She fought tooth and nail when Patrick [jockey, Husbands, aboard Our Flash Drive] went by us on the outside, fought tooth and nail to get back in front of them, and then fought off a challenger to the best of her ability and still secure a win.”
Hernandez, aboard Crystal Cliffs, a five-year-old daughter of Canford Cliffs (IRE) and Preciously (FR), gave top marks for the bay mare’s performance.
“When I saw Roger over there, I said I cannot let him go too easy making the 2,000… I had to make it harder. So that’s why we had to have the dead heat. It was good trip. It was a good pace up in front. Changing gears down the lane, she stuck every step, every step she did it better and better.”
Owned by Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables LLC and Wonder Stables, Crystal Cliffs, now 4-3-2 from nine starts, is trained by Graham Motion.
Lady Speightspeare paid $3.80, $4 and $2.90. Crystal Cliffs returned $4.20, $4.40 and $2.70. Our Flash Drive paid $3.10 to show.