Shirl’s Speight throws down a thriller in Maker’s Mark Mile

April 16, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Charles Fipke’s homebred Shirl’s Speight, rallying widest of all in the stretch, caught favored Masen (GB) at the finish to prevail by a nose in the 34th running of the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1) for 4-year-olds and up Friday afternoon. 

Trained by Roger Attfield and ridden by Luis Saez, Shirl’s Speight covered the mile on a turf course rated as good in 1:35.93. The victory is Attfield’s third in the race following Shudanz in 1992 and Perfect Soul (IRE) in 2004. Perfect Soul is the broodmare sire of Shirl’s Speight. 

Attfield, now with 1,996 victories in his Racing Hall of Fame career, has a chance to become the first trainer to win the Maker’s Mark Mile and Jenny Wiley (G1) in the same year as he will saddle Lady Speightspeare for Fipke in Saturday’s Jenny Wiley. 

Smooth Like Strait, under Umberto Rispoli, went to the front in the field of eight with Masen and Flavien Prat just off his flank through fractions of :24.95 and :49.63. The top two hit the quarter pole in tandem after 6 furlongs in 1:13.38 with Masen eventually gaining the upper hand at the eighth pole. 

Shirl’s Speight, who raced near the back of the pack in the run down the backside, swung to the seven path in the upper stretch for clear sailing with which to catch Masen, who was making his U.S. debut. 

Shirl’s Speight is a 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Speightstown out of 2011 Emirates Airline Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (G1) Perfect Shirl. In notching his first Grade 1 victory, Shirl’s Speight added $358,050 to his bankroll that now totals $566,665 and improved his record to 9-5-0- 1. 

Shirl’s Speight returned $20, $9 and $5. Masen returned $4 and $3 with Smooth Like Strait finishing another neck back in third and returning $2.80 to show. 

Atone finished another three-quarters of a length back in fourth and was followed in order by Mira Mission, Count Again, Set Piece (GB) and In Love (BRZ). 

Quotes from the $600,000 Maker’s Mark Mile (G1)

Luis Saez (winning rider of Shirl’s Speight)

On why he took Shirl’s Speight off the pace

“I was watching the replays and (trainer) Roger (Attfield) called me. He said the best way is to come from behind, so I decided to take him back right when we broke. It looked like that was the best decision to make. In the end, he was coming. He ran pretty hard and got there in time.”

On how fast Shirl’s Speight quickened when Saez asked him to go

“He really took off when he came to the top of the stretch. Those horses on the lead were running pretty hard, but he came right there at the right moment. So it was great.”

Roger Attfield (winning trainer)

On how he managed Shirl’s Speight coming back from injury and a layoff

“He sort of lost his way there after winning his first two starts. He’s a very quick horse, and he won those races all on the lead, easily; he didn’t really gain any experience out of it. And then he had suspensory (ligament) problems and we put him away for a while – quite a while – and I appreciate Mr. (Charles) Fipke (owner of Shirl’s Speight) giving him that amount of time (off). They need it when they have that kind of injury. 

“We brought him back and he’s run very well for me. In his last race (Tampa Bay Stakes-G3), he was shut off and came with one big run, and I realized that’s probably the way this horse really wants to run. So, when I saw he was 50-1 on the morning line, I said, ‘I can’t be that far wrong.’ I won this race with his grandfather (Perfect Soul-IRE in 2004), and this is a better miler than he was.

“There was a lot of speed in the race and Saez gave him a great ride. He let him do that and he came down the stretch fast, didn’t he? I didn’t know whether he was going to make it.”

Flavien Prat (rider of runner-up Masen [GB])

“I had a good trip. He was traveling well and made a good run and it’s a tough beat. We just got beat in the end, but he ran a hell of a race.”

Chad Brown (trainer of Masen)

“I am disappointed. Such a tough way to lose by an inch. He ran great off the layoff. Hats off to the winner. It was a very slow pace for him to close from that far back. The winner ran quite a race.

“I was hoping for a little more (fast) pace but one of the scratches – Somelikeithotbrown – was another one of the speed horses so that left a ‘loose’ leader. I knew going into the race that we could end up in a position that he was pulling a little bit, which he was. 

“Flavien commented to me that he wished he had a little more pace to get (Masen) off the bridle a little bit and relax a little more down the backside. He had daylight the whole way. That was not the plan, but it was a good decision by (Prat).”

Brown, who said Masen has been in his barn since the winter, said he had no plans for the gelding’s next start.

Umberto Rispoli (rider of third-place finisher Smooth Like Strait)

“It was his first start of the season, so I think he ran very well. I tried to make him a little bit more focused on the backside. I was looking around and knew I had a horse on my (side) so I was trying not to make it a sprint race. He’ll probably be a little more in the business next time. He’s always there and always honest so I’m happy with him.”

Keeneland Press Release
Photo: Shirl’s Speight (Coady Photography)

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