Trainer Kevin Attard has his Stanley Cup.
Moira came on strong down the stretch to earn a record-setting victory in the $1-million Queen’s Plate on Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack. That secured Attard his first career Plate title on his sixth attempt.
The win is the culmination of a childhood dream for Attard. And although he’s been a finalist as Canada’s champion trainer the last four years and earned Grade 1 victories at the E.P. Taylor Stakes, Woodbine Mile and Prince of Wales. Attard likened not winning the Plate to a hockey player going his entire career having never played for a Stanley Cup champion.
“There were many emotions leading up to this race,” said Attard, his shirt drenched in sweat. “It’s something I’ve obviously cherished for a long time.
“My goal was always to try and be the best and I think this puts me into a special ground of trainers. I just feel very privileged to be associated with this horse.”
Moira served notice last month she was a definite Plate contender, winning the $500,000 Woodbine Oaks by a whopping 10 3/4-lengths. And she did so despite running without hind shoes following a pre-race incident in the paddock.
“Obviously in Horse Racing you’re hoping those horses kind of have another performance like that,” Attard said. “I think she’s an improving filly, I don’t think we’ve reached the bottom of her yet.
“She has her quirks, this wasn’t an easy one for me. She made me sweat. It’s a good thing I sweat more than she did.”
As dominant as Moira was on the track, Attard said his horse had a form of pre-race jitters.
“I could see she was getting a little edgy just because so many people were around,” Attard said. “She knew today was a different day.
“But the beauty of it is considering everything she does and kind of goes through, she’s able to mentally stay focused and know that she has a job still to do. I think that’s what has defined her as a good horse.”
On Sunday, jockey Rafael Hernandez had Moira sitting eighth at the half-mile point and seventh after three-quarters of a mile. He moved her into third with a quarter-mile to go behind Ironstone and The Minkster before Moira simply took off down the stretch, earning a seven-length victory in a synthetic track and Plate record time of 2:01.48.
“Raffie told me afterwards, ‘We still had plenty left,’” said Attard, who received a congratulatory phone call from American Triple Crown-winning conditioner Bob Baffert. “I remember Ironstone kind of making a bid on The Minkster and I said, ‘Geez, we’re still a little far out of it.’
“The next thing you know it’s like she was just gobbling up ground.”
Hernandez earned his second Plate victory after winning the ’15 race aboard Shaman Ghost.
“She gave me another gear, ” he said. “When we turned for home, she was unbelievable. She’s something else. She is so special.”
Moira became the eighth filly to notch the Oaks-Plate double.
Hall of Dreams was second ahead of Sir for Sure. The remainder of the 11-horse field, in order, included: Ironstone; Dancin in Da’nile; Rondure; Hunt Master; Duke of Love; The Minkster; Causin’ Mayhem; and Shamateur.
Moira paid $5.60, $3.40 and $2.90. Hall of Dreams returned $10.60 and $7.10 while Sir for Sure paid $7.10.
Moira has won all three of her 2022 starts and hit the winner’s circle for the fourth time in five career races. The exception was a second-place finish in the $156,400 Grade 3 Mazarine Stakes on Nov. 28, 2021 at Woodbine.
Attard comes from a racing family, with his father, Tino, uncle, Sid, and son, Joshua, all in the business as trainers or owners. Last year, all four Attards had horses in the Queen’s Plate and Sid Attard sent Shamateur postward Sunday.
Kevin Attard becomes the second family member to win the Queen’s Plate after Larry Attard, a Hall of Fame jockey, guided Bompago to victory in 1983. But being surrounded by family Sunday meant the world to Kevin Attard.
“Being in this business and the amount of time at the barn, my family sacrifices a lot,” he said. “For them to be there and share in that moment means a lot.
“When we won the Woodbine Mile (in 2020 with Starship Jubilee) it was just my dad and my son and it was great because my son is an integral part of my life and is so into Horse Racing. But my wife wasn’t there, my daughter or my mother, who is probably my biggest supporter.”
But Attard said he wouldn’t be where he is today without his father’s guidance.
“My dad put me in this position,” Kevin Attard said. “He taught me everything I know.
“I think he sacrificed part of his career to put me in a position to succeed when he was training and I was able to start taking over his part of the business. I can’t thank him so much, I love him so much.”
The second Triple Crown event will be the Prince of Wales Stakes on Sept. 13 at Fort Erie Racetrack.
“Honestly we have not discussed (anything) past this race,” Attard said. “At this point, I’m not sure what’s next.
“Obviously, being a local trainer I would love to put my name beside a Triple Crown horse if I could. But again there’s a lot of people involved … we’ll discuss that when the time comes but if I could go for a Triple Crown or attempt to try to win that would be something pretty special.”
The third and final race will be the Breeders’ Stakes slated for Oct. 2 at Woodbine. Wando was the last Canadian Triple Crown winner, accomplishing the feat in 2003.