By and large, the first Del Mar experience for venerable trainer Roger
Attfield has been an enjoyable one.
An eight-time winner of the Soverign Award as Canada’s trainer of the year
and a member of Canada’s Hall of Fame since 1999, Attfield has been to
California many times and even oversaw a string at Santa Anita for a few years.
But he hadn’t been to Del Mar during a meeting until this week when he attended
the post position draw party for the TVG Pacific Classic on Wednesday night at
the Rancho Valencia resort and followed it up Thursday with a semi-touristy
tour of San Diego.
Amidst the fun, however, there was the matter of his horse for Sunday’s $1
million , 1 ¼-mile, Grade I event, Don Cavallo, drawing the rail post position
in a field of 10.
“I didn’t think it was very friendly,” Attfield said, with a laugh, Friday
morning. “But the draw is the draw and you take it as it comes. Obviously,
I would prefer not to have it, but the draw and the weather are things
you have no control over.”
Don Cavallo, a 4-year-old son of El Prado out of the Mt. Livermore mare
Transcendental, galloped over the Polytrack main surface Friday morning under
exercise rider Sue Lorimer, the fourth consecutive such exercise since arriving
from Woodbine in Toronto on Sunday. Don Cavallo comes into the Classic
off his first stakes success, an impressive 3 ¾-length win in the Grade III
Dominion Day Stakes on July 1 at Woodbine, a race in which third-place finisher
Stately Victor also earned a Classic assignment.
It was Don Cavallo’s fourth win in eight starts for Attfield in a career of
five wins from 13 starts with earnings of $291,785. Don Cavallo’s 3-for-4
record on synthetic surfaces was another factor in the decision to head west
which Attfield hopes won’t be compromised by the post position draw.
“I brought the jockey (Luis Contreras) that has been riding him all the time
and has a lot of confidence in the horse,” Attfield said. “I’ll leave it (race
strategy) up to him, but the break will dictate what he does.
“I think he definitely will be (forwardly placed) but it will depend on what
happens with the other speed horses. If you don’t get that luxury, then you’ve
got to win another way, that’s all.”
Attfield, 64, a native of Newbury, England, has more than 1,700 wins, more
than 350 in stakes and 80 in graded stakes with his horses accounting for over
$85 million since winning his first race in Canada in 1972.
Woodbine, Attfield’s home base, has had a Polytrack main surface since
2006, one year before Del Mar. The brand is the same, but the surfaces are
different, Attfield noted Friday, with Del Mar’s containing more fiber than the
Toronto track due to weather and maintenance circumstances.
“It’s not the same surface, but he (Don Cavallo) gets over it just as well,
although it’s only been galloping,” Attfield said.
“I’m a big believer in synthetic tracks and I prefer it to the traditional
dirt tracks. I always did from the first day I arrived in North America and saw
them running on a muddy track. I couldn’t believe it, I saw the horses come
back with their rundowns (bandages) all torn and their heels bleeding, and it
just didn’t make any sense to me.
“A good dirt track is lovely, but it’s so up to the weather.”