Payson Winner Of The Week
Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, Florida was the scene of the $300,000 G2 Honey Fox Stakes on Saturday, April 1. Fillies and mares four years old and upward were featured as they took to Gulfstream's turf track and raced one mile. Moyglare Stud Farm's overwhelming 1-5 favorite Celestine proved her class and posted the repeat win in this race - this time by 1 1/4 lengths. 16-1 shot Mississippi Delta was 1 1/4 lengths back in second while 7-2 second choice Linda was another length back in third. Josedeanimaux finished fourth in the field of six while Lori's Store and Dad's Princess completed the order of finish. Inside Out scratched.
With spring in full swing, some of horse racing's top runners are just beginning to flex their muscles in their first few starts or workouts of the year. Many of the sport's top performers will be fresh off a respite at the training center that many have called "Club Med for horses."
The slogan of Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., is "Happy horses win," and it's a philosophy its management takes seriously. It's even their web address. Originally begun in the 1950s as St. Lucie Training Center, Payson spans 400 acres and includes one-mile turf and dirt tracks, European galloping and hacking trails and lots of turnout space.
"What we offer here is very different from the normal training center, in that it is truly a training center," said facility owner Virginia Kraft Payson. "It is not an approximation of a backstretch, as some of our competition which deals in numbers. You won't find an inch of concrete anywhere here."
Payson is proud to say that the facility has played host to the same group of top-class trainers since she took over the training center in 1980. In fact, morning training hours look like a Hall of Fame clinic, with Bill Mott aboard his pony and Shug McGaughey a few feet away watching his horses from along the outside rail. Christophe Clement jokes from atop a trail railing that they "train by committee" here as Roger Attfield's trainees saunter by.
Early in life, Roger Attfield was the sort of kid who would look wistfully out the school window and think of animals, horses or farming. Especially horses.
Obviously, he has a way with them. It's as if he speaks their language, knows how to coax the best out of them. And now the 72-year-old thoroughbred trainer, who is based at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, has received the ultimate reward: He will be inducted into the U. S. National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The ceremony will take place Aug. 10 at Saratoga, the mecca of all top horsemen in the United States. And now he belongs there. After winning just about every major race in Canada multiple times, last November he won his first Breeders' Cup race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., with 27-to-1 shot Perfect Shirl.
"I was so happy for him," said Richard Dos Ramos, a Woodbine jockey who has ridden many long-shot winners for Attfield over the years. "He's well deserved of it. He always wanted to get a Breeders' Cup and that was fantastic to see. The filly probably ran the best race of her life at the right time. He makes them peak at the right time.
"When you're coming up to big races like the Queen's Plate, or any type of big race like that, his horses are always usually right there and they seem to step up."
Attfield was born in Newbury, England, where he worked as a show-jumping rider and an amateur steeplechase jockey. He was the son of a coal merchant who didn't have the means to outfit him with ponies to ride, so Attfield got his fix by riding horses for other people.