British-born Roger Attfield has made a name for himself as a first-rate trainer of Thoroughbreds while making his case for inclusion in Racing’s Hall of Fame. Based at Toronto's Woodbine Racetrack, he has won an unprecedented six Sovereign Awards as Canada’s leading trainer. He’s won Canada’s Triple Crown three of the six times it’s been accomplished. And he has trained six Canadian Horse of the Years. He’s won Canada’s most prestigious race, the Queen’s Plate, eight times.
Growing up riding horses as a child in Newbury, England, Attfield became an accomplished international level show jumper and amateur steeplechase rider. He earned a degree in agriculture, specializing in farm management before emigrating to Canada in 1970. He took out his trainer's licence the next year.
In early 1975, he met Charles Baker, then the chairman of the Ontario Jockey Club, who was trying to find just the right person to take over as trainer of his stable. One of the horses he owned was a Buckpasser colt he had purchased at Saratoga the previous summer. Attfield turned out to be the right man to develop that colt, Norcliffe, into a top performer. Norcliffe won the Coronation at Woodbine at 2, and the following season won the Queen's Plate, Attfield's first starter in the prestigious race for Canadian-breds. Of the six stakes Attfield's stable won in 2006, five were graded, and the stable earned almost $2 million.
In 1985 he took over Bud Willmot's Kinghaven Farms, training as well for other clients including Earle Mack, Allan Dragone and Frank Stronach. He won his second Queen's Plate in 1987 with Kinghaven's Market Control. Roger earned a $1 million bonus for Kinghaven when With Approval and Izvestia won back to back Canadian Triple Crowns in 1989 and 1990.
Attfield lists With Approval’s Triple Crown as the highlight of his stellar career. "It hadn’t been done for a long time," he said. "When we won it the next year with Izvestia, that was also a thrill, but the first time was special."
In 1990, when Izvestia was winning the Triple Crown, Kinghaven Farms horses trained by Attfield earned more than $5 million, tops among all North American owners.
Roger Attfield was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1999, his first year of eligibility.
His stable won 60 races and earned $4.5 million in 2002. His stakes performers included Sovereign Award-winning older female Small Promises and Sweetest Thing. Highlighting 2003 were the victories by Perfect Soul in the Shadwell Turf Mile and the King Edward Breeders' Cup Handicap, which resulted in a Sovereign Award for him as leading turf male. Attfield's stable earned nearly $3 million.
In 2004, Attfield won the Maker's Mark Mile with Perfect Soul, the Coronation Futurity with Ablo and other stakes with South Bay Cove and Just in Case Jimmy. For the year, his stable won 35 races and earned $3 million.
Palladio, winner of the 2005 Ohio Derby, became his 39th Canadian champion. Attfield also saddled three other stakes winners, and his stable earned more than $2.5 million.
From Woodbine, his circuit consists of Payson Park Training Center in the winter, and Keeneland in the spring. He currently has 45 horses in training, of which he owns 10 in partnership with close friends Bill Werner and Mickey Canino
A popular horseman, Attfield was once described by jockey Willie Martinez this way; "He’s one class act. He is a professional. He knows what he is doing. But he doesn’t brag about it. He still can be a friend. He is a gentleman." Martinez rode the Attfield-trained Whiskey Wisdom to a 12-length victory in the 1997 Fayette Stakes at Keeneland.
Attfield has always valued the importance of his owners in his success. "Owners are very important. I can’t stress that enough. Without owners, we don’t have jobs. The percentage of horses in this business that actually turn out to be decent isn’t that high, so when an owner puts up his money, he should be able to participate and enjoy the progress of his horse."
As a goal, he said: "I’d like to win the Kentucky Derby one day."
From 1976 through June 1, 2008, Roger Attfield earned 1,467 wins and earnings of $67,954,827.
Now 67, Attfield still enjoys the life of a trainer. "This is one thing you shouldn’t be doing if you’re not enjoying it. I intend to just keep going. This is what I do."