Trainer Roger Attfield has found the going tough at Woodbine this year.
A perennial powerhouse here, the Attfield barn has lost a number of stakes winners in the last couple of years, with the males Musketier and Simmard being retired to stud last year and Perfect Shirl and Smart Sting joining a parade of Attfield stakes winners who became broodmares.
“I’ve had very few 2-year-olds the last couple of years,” Attfield said. “I have only two 3-year-olds now and no 3-year-old filly. It puts a big hole in your stable. This is going to be a rebuilding year for me, to try and put some balance back in the stable.”
Attfield briefly feared he had suffered another setback at Keeneland on April 26, when Forte dei Marmi, a 7-year-old gelding who won last year’s Grade 2 Sky Classic, suffered an injury and was vanned off following the Elkhorn Stakes.
“We were touching all over the place, not winning a race, and then something like that had to happen,” Attfield said. “But he was fine after the race. The jockey felt he’d taken a bad step. He wasn’t sure. We do want them to look after these horses.
“The horse is in good shape,” he said. “He’s trained better here the last couple of days than he was training at Keeneland.”
Another Attfield horse, Kissable, who finished fourth here in the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes in October, recently ran fourth in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bewitch, a 1 1/2-mile turf race that marked her first start in more than five months.
“She didn’t run badly,” Attfield said of Kissable, winner of the Waya at Saratoga last summer. “She was quite a long ways out of it, and there was no pace. It’s kind of an impossibility in that situation.”
Forte dei Marmi and Kissable were at Payson Park with Attfield over the winter before the stopover at Keeneland on their way back to Woodbine.
“They were both going to run in Florida, but the ground was so hard it wouldn’t have suited either of them,” Attfield said.
With no suitable opportunities on the immediate horizon at Woodbine, Forte dei Marmi and Kissable are scheduled to make their next appearances out of town. Forte dei Marmi’s target is Pimlico’s Grade 2, $300,000 Dixie at 1 1/8 miles on turf May 18. Kissable could run in the $65,000 Keertana, a 1 3/8-mile turf overnight stakes for fillies and mares at Churchill Downs on May 18 or in the Grade 2, $200,000 Sheepshead Bay, a 1 3/8-mile turf stakes for fillies and mares on May 25 at Belmont.
In the meantime, Attfield will be saddling his first stakes starter of the meeting here Sunday with Are You Kidding Me in the $100,000 Wando, an open overnight stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.
Are You Kidding Me, a Kentucky-bred, won his maiden over six furlongs on Polytrack here last July and later finished a close fifth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity over 1 1/16 miles on Keeneland’s synthetic surface Oct. 6. Five months later, Are You Kidding Me lost a one-mile open allowance turf race at Tampa by a nose and, after finishing eighth in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, ran third in a second-level allowance at Keeneland at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.
“He ran a good race at Tampa, but the Florida Derby, his first time on the dirt, was not a good experience,” Attfield said. “He just didn’t close at Keeneland the way he should have.”
Attfield said he was pleased with Are You Kidding Me’s tune-up Wednesday for the Wando, a four-furlong breeze in 47.20 seconds while working in company.