TORONTO — Kevin Attard has been finalist as Canada's champion trainer the last four years and has compiled a resume that includes such Grade 1 victories as the E.P Taylor Stakes, Woodbine Mile and Prince of Wales Stakes.
But all of those accomplishments would pale in comparison to being in the winner's circle Sunday holding the Queen's Plate trophy.
"It's kind of like when they talk about great hockey players who haven't won a Stanley Cup," Attard said. "To me, this is my Stanley Cup and for me to be considered in the elite group of the best, I need to win it."
Attard has the horse to beat in this year's $1-million Queen's Plate. Heralded filly Moira heads into the 11-horse race Sunday as the 5-2 early favourite following her dominant victory last month in the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks.
Moira blew away the Oaks field at Woodbine Racetrack, winning by a whopping 10 3/4 lengths. Her time of 1:49.78 was better than what Sir for Sure posted (1:50.62) in winning the $150,400 Plate Trial on the same day.
That's significant given both races are 1 1/8 miles on Woodbine's Tapeta surface, which will be the same ground for the 1 1/4-mile Plate on Sunday.
Moira's impressive Oaks win came despite running without hind shoes following a pre-race incident in the paddock. That didn't stop her from earning a second win in as many starts this year and a third in four career races.
She was second in her only other event, the $156,400 Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 28, 2021 at Woodbine. Mrs. Barbara, a horse owned by Woodbine CEO Jim Lawson, won the race en route to being named Canada's champion two-year-old filly.
This marks the second straight year Attard will attempt the Oaks-Plate double. After winning the '21 Oaks, Munnyfor Ro, one of four horses Attard had in the race, was fourth in the Plate.
H C Holiday finished third while Harlan Estate was seventh and Haddassah took eighth.
This year's field, with post position, jockey and early odds, includes: 1) Hall of Dreams, Patrick Husbands, 12-1; 2) Shamateur, Luis Contreras, 30-1; 3) Ironstone, Kazushi Kimura, 12-1; 4) The Minkster, David Moran, 10-1; 5) Duke of Love, Justin Stein, 5-1; 6) Rondure, Flavien Prat, 3-1; 7) Dancin in Da'nile, Shaun Bridgmohan, 30-1; 8) Moira, Rafael Hernandez, 5-2; 9) Hunt Master, Emma-Jayne Wilson, 30-1; 10) Sir for Sure, Declan Carroll, 8-1; and 11) Causin' Mayhem, Antonio Gallardo, 6-1.
Four Oaks champions have gone on to win the Plate — Holy Helena (2017), Lexie Lou (2014), Inglorious (2011) and Dancethruthedawn (2001). In 2018, Oaks runner-up Wonder Gadot captured the opening leg of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
Attard has come close to winning the Plate, finishing second with Alezzandro in 2007. Fillies have won the Plate some 37 times, but none since Wonder Gadot four years ago.
Attard said he won't take a different approach running a filly against colts in the Plate, the opening jewel of the OLG Canadian Triple Crown.
"You just kind of concentrate on your horse," he said. "Any time you go against the boys, it's a step up in company, no doubt about it.
"We tend not to do that too often here in North America but obviously for $1 million against Canadian-breds you've got to take a shot at it. She was pretty impressive in the Oaks so you'd have to think she belongs with this group. She's obviously going to have to run that race back or be a little bit better."
Attard comes from a racing family, with his father, Tino, uncle, Sid, and son, Joshua, all in the business as trainers or owners. Last year, all four Attards had horses in the Queen's Plate and Sid Attard will send Shamateur postward Sunday.
A member of the Attard family has won the Queen's Plate, with Hall of Fame jockey Larry Attard guiding Bompago to victory in 1983. But Kevin Attard leaves no doubt regarding what it would mean to add his name to that select group.
"Honestly, it's like a lifelong goal." he said. "I've grown up in a racing family and this is not an easy industry for anyone that really works in it.
"I know for myself, I've sacrificed a lot of family time, I've put a lot of hours in and this is the position I try to place myself into. When it's all said and done and I'm gone, I want to be remembered as one of the better trainers here at Woodbine and I feel in my heart I need this win to kind of be recognized as that."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 19, 2022.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press