Roger Attfield is a finalist for election to the 2012 class of the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame. Hell, yeah, it’s about damn time.
He has only been a member of the Canadian Thoroughbred Hall of Fame since being elected in 1999, which was his first year of eligibility.
Maybe the man whom many consider to be Canada’s greatest contemporary trainer had to finally win a Breeders’ Cup race to make the ballot on the American side of the border.
After coming in second twice with Play the King (1988 Sprint) and With Approval (1990 Turf), he captured his first Breeders’ Cup race in 15 tries last fall when Perfect Shirl won the Filly & Mare Turf at odds of 27-1. What other reason could there be for his absence?
If you don’t know that Attfield, 72, is one hell of a horseman, then you don’t know anything about racing. I’m not going to recount the lengthy list of his extraordinary accomplishments here. I do that in detail every year when assigned to write his extensive biography for the Breeders’ Cup and the NTRA.
So let’s cut right to the heart of the matter. If an American trainer, provided he or she satisfied the requirement of being active for at least 25 years, had taken home the Eclipse Award a record eight times, won the Kentucky Derby a record-tying eight times, trained almost half of the Triple Crown winners, and had the Horse of the Year in his barn six times, do you suspect he might be a Hall of Famer?
You can bet your sweet Timothy hay he would. The dapper and charming Englishman has accomplished the equivalent of all of that, albeit with a Northern flair.
He has a record eight Sovereign Awards as Canada’s top trainer in his trophy case, he trained three of Canada’s seven Triple Crown winners (Izvestia, With Approval and Peteski), won the Queen’s Plate, which is
Canada’s most prestigious race and as important as that annual affair for three-year-olds run in Kentucky every year on the first Saturday in May, a record-tying eight times.
And this: Roger Attfield has developed six horses that became Canada’s Horse of the Year: Norcliffe (1976), Play the King (1988), With Approval (1989), Izvestia (1990), Peteski (1993), and Alywow (1994).
Attfield, a gentleman in every sense of the word, has made 1,727 trips to the winner’s circle and won 369 stakes while his horses earned over $88 million in purses. He’s as good with young horses as he is with the older ones and with females as well as males, and he can get the best out of the lot whether he spots them on turf, dirt or Polytrack.
If all of the above isn’t worthy of Hall of Fame induction, please be sure to enlighten me as to what is.
Attfield, who shifts his operation from Woodbine to South Florida in the winters, didn’t even know he had made the Final 10 as a newcomer along with the horses Ashado, Ghostzapper, Housebuster and Xtra Heat.
Repeat nominees Calvin Borel, Garrett Gomez, Alex Solis, John Velazquez and Robert Wheeler are the other five on the ballot.
“Really? How nice is that?” he said to Toronto Globe and Mail racing writer Bev Smith when she called him for reaction to the news. “I hadn’t really thought about it at all. It’s nice to have been nominated but there are people who deserve it a lot more than me. It’s a big honor, that’s for sure.”
As much as I don’t want to argue with the man, he’s wrong. Flat out wrong. Nobody deserves to be among the 2012 inductees into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame more than Roger Attfield.
Fortunately, I have a say in the outcome because I have the privilege of voting. I generally like to keep my selections a secret, but you can probably guess whose name is going to be one of those checked on my ballot this time around.
This is an honor that’s long overdue.