National Media Teleconference Transcript and Audio (Motion, Attfield, Carroll)

June 28, 2016 – NTRA National Media Teleconference

157th Queen’s Plate Preview

Guests (names of probable entrants), start time in audio file

  • Graham Motion (Trainer, Scholar Athlete), 1:00
  • Roger Attfield (Trainer, Shakhimat), 10:28
  • Josie Carroll (Trainer, Amis Gizmo and Gamble’s Ghost), 22:10

Click below to listen to the Teleconference. Transcript will be available on this page Wednesday, June 29.

 

P R E S E N T A T I O N 

Jim Mulvihill:

Welcome everybody to this week’s NTRA National Media Teleconference.  We’re previewing Sunday’s 157th running of the Queen’s Plate, which I’m sure you know is the oldest, continuously run race in North America, and of course the first leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.  The winners from the past few decades of this race have included the likes of Wando, Awesome Again, Dance Smartly and With Approval.  This year’s renewal has 14 probable entrants and the race will be drawn tomorrow morning at beautiful Woodbine Race Track in Toronto and that draw will be streamed live on queensplate.com.

 

We’re thrilled to be joined today by the trainers of four major players from this race.  Later on we’ll talk to the legendary Hall of Famer Roger Attfield who’s going for a record ninth Queen’s Plate win with Shakhimat; and Josie Carroll who will likely saddle a pair of contenders Sunday, and she’s a two-time Queen’s Plate winner herself.  But first, we’re glad to welcome in our frequent guest on these NTRA calls, Graham Motion, the Trainer of Scholar Athlete, a Belmont allowance winner on the turf for West Point thoroughbreds.  Graham of course has won a Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom, three Breeders’ Cup races, a few dozen grade one races overall, but this will be his first Queen’s Plate star.  Graham, it’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington.  Thanks for joining us.

 

Graham Motion:

 

Hi Jim.  Thanks for having me.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Yes, of course, we’re always happy to have you on.  We all understand that West Point loves to target these big races, so when they get a quality Ontario bred like this how far back would you say that you and Terry and the partners started pointing to the Queen’s Plate?

 

Graham Motion:

 

Well, yes, I think this was certainly something we hope to be able to get to from the get-go.  He’s a horse that showed ability very early on so we always kind of had hopes and dreams that this is where we would end up.  I think in his last start he kind of propelled us to the Queen’s Plate.  Looking at his PP is perhaps it looks like he’s a little in and out but when you go back to last year when he started up there at Woodbine he was quite impressive in his first—in his maiden win and we sort of built things from there.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Well, and last time out or before the race you changed up a few different things.  So can you just talk about both equipment and style-wise what might have changed last time out that caused his improvement?

 

Graham Motion:

 

Yes, we did.  I mean just backing up a little bit.  When he came out this year at Gulfstream we gave him a little break after his last—at Woodbine in November and kind of pointed him for the February allowance race which he came out and ran very well.  I was very pleased with it.  We came back and ran him in the group race in the Palm Beach, the Group 3, which he was only beaten less than two lengths.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

 

Right.

 

Graham Motion:

 

When we ran him in the Rushaway at Turfway and when Alan got off him he just said that he really wasn’t paying attention, he was very—not lackluster but just wasn’t paying attention, so that was when we made the decision to geld him and add blinkers which is a fairly dramatic move for me to do both but it certainly seemed to pay dividends at Belmont.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

As far as the style, I mean do you think the blinkers are what accounted for him going to lead in the race at Belmont last time out?

Graham Motion:

I think—yes, I think possibly.  I think that and the fact that he was, you know, a little fresh, he’d had five weeks between races so I think it could have been a combination of the two.

Jim Mulvihill:

Well, and speaking of being fresh, you could have had a chance to get a prep over the surface in the Plate trials so what goes into the decision to train up to this event?

Graham Motion:

Yes, I just felt that he’d already had four starts this year which is quite a lot for a three-year old in mind perhaps, and to point for a race like this I just didn’t feel like it made sense to try and squeeze in another race.

Graham Motion:

I just preferred to have him fresh and train him up to race and hopefully have him at his best for this race.  This is a race that we wanted to point for so I didn’t want him to come up there three weeks before and perhaps have a hard race which might take away from the Queen’s Plate.

Jim Mulvihill:

Got it.  I did get a chance to watch his last work on YouTube posted there – and anybody who wants to see that can access that via your Twitter page – but it was a very nice looking work and I’m curious who that workmate was to his inside and just what your impressions were of that 7/8 move?

Graham Motion:

Yes, I thought it was a good work.  He was breeding with a horse called Seeking Alpha who’s an older horse, quite a useful horse.  I tend not to raise my three-year-olds with older horses but certainly Scholar Athlete’s a horse that seems to be able to handle it.  I wanted to get a nice stamina work into him.

So he breezed through six furlongs and (inaudible) had a pretty strong seven furlongs which really becomes sort of a two-turn work on the synthetic here at Fair Hill

Jim Mulvihill:

I see, very good.  Well Graham, hang on for a second and I’m going to check with Michelle and see if the media have any questions about anything that we haven’t already covered.

Our first question comes from Ron Gierkink of Daily Racing Form.  Please go ahead.

Ron Gierkink:

Yes, hi Graham.  I had two questions.  Do you expect Scholar Athlete to be on the lead in the Queen’s Plate?  I was wondering if Up With the Birds is coming for the Singspiel Stakes on Sunday and how he’s doing.

Graham Motion:

I don’t necessarily expect him to be on the lead on Sunday.  To me it looks like there’s going to be some pace in the race.  I’m hoping really he’ll settle—I don’t know if you saw his work the other day but we did kind of have him settle off of his workmate, so I think going a mile and a quarter is going to be important that he’s relaxed.  I don’t think he’ll be far off the pace but I wouldn’t necessarily expect him to be on the lead.

Ron Gierkink:

Right.

Graham Motion:

Up With the Bird has actually come back up to Malcolm Pierce so that he can finish the year in Canada and I’m not exactly sure what his plans are.

Ron Gierkink:

I see.  I can talk to him.  Okay, thank you.

Operator:

Thank you.  The next question comes from Dan Ralph of Canadian Press.  Please go ahead.

Dan Ralph:

Thank you.  Graham, two questions if I may.  First of all, what sort of challenges would a 14-horse field create and how important that—would that make the post?  Secondly, (inaudible), what would it mean to you given your very extensive and very successful resume?

Graham Motion:

Yes, I mean this is always a race that I’ve followed, I’ve read about.  I think as trainers we all sort of aspire to compete in these races.  So I’m very excited about it.  I mean it’s a race that has a lot of history and it’s something that I’m really looking forward to.  The 14-horse field certainly that adds new challenges.  I think the fact that my horse would be forwardly placed—you know, we’ve got a very good jock on him in Jose Ortiz so I don’t have too many reservations about that.

 

Alex Campbell:

Hi Graham.  I know this horse has—obviously has the extensive experience racing over synthetic and you training on synthetic as well, but is there any concern at all that—about his ability to handle this new Woodbine surface, the new Tapeta and do you have any plans to train him on it in the lead up to the race on Sunday?

Graham Motion:

I don’t really have concerns.  I realize it’s probably a little different from our surface but we do have Tapeta here at Fair Hill.  This will be the first horse I run on this surface so the idiosyncrasies of the track are a little bit new to me but I feel very confident that he’ll handle it and he really is a synthetic horse.  I think he handles it much better than the dirt.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

All right.  Graham, we appreciate your time today.  Lots of great information on Scholar Athlete and we wish you luck at Woodbine on Sunday.  We’ll see you there.

Graham Motion:

Okay.  Thank you so much.

Jim Mulvihill:

All right.  Thanks so much.  Graham Motion saddling his first Queen’s Plate starter on Sunday, Scholar Athlete.

Our next guest is a member of both the Canadian and American Racing Halls of Fame, Roger Attfield is an eight-time Sovereign Award Winner as Canada’s Outstanding Trainer.  He’s saddled the winners of 21 Canadian Triple Crown events including eight in the Queen’s Plate, three of those went on to complete the Triple Crown

Jim Mulvihill:

Terrific, thank you.  Roger Attfield, it’s Jim Mulvihill at the NTRA here.  Thanks for joining us.

Roger Attfield:

Yes, good morning.

Jim Mulvihill:

Good morning.  We’re so glad to have you on our call today.  Maybe you can help us to set the stage for this Queen’s Plate a little bit.  You’re the winningest trainer of this race in modern times at least and an Ontario resident for most of the year.  So for those on the call that have never had the chance to visit Woodbine, what can you tell us about the significance of the Queen’s Plate, what this race means exactly?

Roger Attfield:

Well, as you probably all know, it’s the oldest continuously run race in North America, is steeped in history and it’s a special race for Canadians, it’s sort of like the major race for the season, you know.

Jim Mulvihill:

Sure, absolutely.  Your wins in this race span more than 30 years, so I’m curious if you could, I’m sure it’s hard to separate them necessarily, but what memory stand out from those winners?  What are your greatest memories of the Queen’s Plate?

Roger Attfield:

Well there are many really.  I’m sure thinking back about it the first one was very, very important because when I first came to Canada I thought that would be nice if you could ever win that one day, and so I’m sure that that was very, very important at that time, maybe more important than I realize now and then With Approval winning that and going on to win the Triple Crown that hadn’t been won for 25 or 27 years is also very important, but his best years in Peteski and those horses were all very, very good horses and they were (inaudible) races.  So they all meant a lot, you know.

Jim Mulvihill:

Well, and you say that first one, Norcliffe might have been more important even than you realized at the time, so looking back to 1976, what did that win do for your career?  Does that attract new owners, take you to another level in terms of quality of horses?  What did it mean for you 30-some years ago?

Roger Attfield:

Well, yes, probably.  I mean I came to Canada in 1970 and started training in ’71 and so five years later I win the Queen’s Plate.  It must have helped my career I’m sure at that particular point in time where you notice that there’s a lot of prestige to the race and it certainly did help my career, that’s for sure.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very good.  Well, now let’s turn to Sunday and your entrant for this year, who I’ve heard alternately pronounced as Shakhimat or Shake-a-mat.  So maybe first you can just clarify for us what the correct pronunciation is.

Roger Attfield:

Well I call him Shakhimat, but then I’m sure it’s Shakimat.  It’s Russian for checkmate and I think that’s how they would pronounce it.  Yes, I’m sure it’s Shakhimat.

Jim Mulvihill:

There you go, Russian for checkmate.  Okay, good to know.  Well we got to see him here in Lexington in April when he was an easy winner of the Transylvania.  Last time out he gets beat in the Plate trial, but you seemed pleased with that effort nonetheless as far as how it sets him up for this on Sunday.

Roger Attfield:

Yes, I think so.  I mean obviously you’d like to win every race you can but, you know, it wasn’t the most important; the most important race was the Plate coming up and I thought that it was a credible race for him.  I think it would have done him some good going forward actually, and he’s trained very well since that race and I think he’s a good lead-up for this race.  He’s in excellent shape.  He worked very, very nicely for me this morning and nice little (inaudible) work and he—you know, if he’s good enough and he gets a clean run I’m sure he’s going to run very well.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very good.  Well, Roger, hang on the line for a minute and we’re going to check with the Operator to see if there are any questions from the media that’s on the line.

Dan Ralph:

Thank you.  Roger, thank you for doing this, first of all.  Second of all, what would it mean to you to win Sunday and to get the ninth?

Roger Attfield:

Well it would mean an awful lot.  I mean, you know, and I’m just—I’m grateful and very grateful and honored that I’ve won eight of them, but if I could win the ninth one and break the record that’s stuck for so many years now obviously it would be—it will be wonderful.  But if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen but it would be great to get it done some time in my life, yes, definitely.

Dan Ralph:

I wanted to follow-up.  I mean I think your last Plate win was ’08 and I’m wondering if you’ve—if it’s been a difficult week for number nine?

Roger Attfield:

Yes, well, yes, like I say, I haven’t really put a whole lot of worry or thought into winning the ninth.  I just tried to—you know, to obviously try to win the race and it’d be wonderful to be the ninth one.  But last year I thought I had a really, really good chance of making it and it didn’t happen, so it wasn’t the end of the world but it would have been nice if we could have got it down.  But like I say, it’s another year and if it happens it happens, you know.

 

Ron Gierkink:

Yes, hi Roger.  He’s won all his races on the lead.  You’ve obviously trained him to try and come from off the pace in some ways and in today’s work he was slow early and finished great.  I mean is it important for him to begin to relax and come from somewhere off the pace?

Roger Attfield:

Yes, I mean I’d like to see him run that way.  You know, the races that he’s won they have all been on the lead but he’s been the only speed in the race and he’s just dominated it, hasn’t he?  I’ve always felt that, and the way I’ve trained him that worked him from behind some pretty good horses and he’s relaxed and come on and beaten those horses in works and so I always feel that he can do that but I must say when you look into this form you’d say he’s a better horse when he’s on the lead.  But I’ve tried to train him that, you know, if it comes to situation where there’s, you know, the other horse is wanting to lead and what have you that he doesn’t have to be there, but we sort of did that in the trial a little bit and we got beaten.  So (inaudible) maybe I’m going about it the wrong way, I don’t know.  Anyway, he’s come into the race well and we just have to—it’ll be up to him.  She’s been with the horse enough now that she’s worked him from behind horses and she’s worked—she’s had him on the lead and she knows her horse well enough that she’s going to have to work out what—how the pace is coming up in the race and what she thinks she needs to do.

Jim Mulvihill:

All right.  Thanks Michelle.  We’re joined by Roger Attfield.  He’s the eight time Sovereign Award Winner as Outstanding Trainer; saddled the winners of 21 Canadian Triple Crown events including eight in the Queen’s Plate, three Triple Crown winners.  Roger, I’ve got just one follow-up for you.  An ongoing story of this meet has been the new Tapeta surface at Woodbine.  Just wondering if you could give your impressions of this new surface and how its performing so far.

Roger Attfield:

Yes, well actually I like it a lot.  Obviously the management is working out some of the little things about it.  The weather definitely changes most surfaces actually but I think the synthetic surface it probably changes it a little bit more than some and I think they’re getting a handle of that now and it’s been more consistent of late and I think it’s playing very, very well right now.  I have no complaints about it at all and it definitely plays better when it has moisture in it which most tracks do anyway.  So I think they’re getting the idea of how to do that now and it’s sustainable, consistent and I have no complaints about it at all.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very good.  So if it is sunny all weekend you wouldn’t expect that to necessarily result in any sort of heat favoring surface come Sunday.

Roger Attfield:

Well it’s been so darn hot and sunny and windy this last two weeks now and they’d been more to in between—between some of the races and it seems to be playing very well I think and they’re obviously going to be conscious of that.  It looks like it’s going to be a fine, quite warm Sunday also, so it won’t be any different and it’s certainly not going to be as hot as it has been just of late.  So I’m looking forward to a very fair track on Sunday.

Jim Mulvihill:

Excellent.  Glad to hear it.  Well, Roger, thank you so much for all this great information today, and best of luck on Sunday.

Roger Attfield:

Well, thank you so much.  It’s been a pleasure.

Jim Mulvihill:

Absolutely.  The pleasure is all ours.  Roger Attfield, going for his ninth Queen’s Plate win on Sunday.

That brings us to our final guest on this NTRA National Media Teleconference, and that’s going to be the two-time Queen’s Plate winner, Josie Carroll.  She’s an Ontario native.  She worked as an assistant for many years before going out on her own in 1994, and among her many major stakes wins are two grade one winners in the state.  Those were the filly Careless Jewel and earlier this year the older turf horse Lukes Alley.  She’s got two chances at a third Queen’s Plate on Sunday with Plate Trial winner Amis Gizmo, as well as the Woodbine Oak’s runner up Gamble’s Ghost.

Jim Mulvihill:

It’s Jim Mulvihill in Lexington.  We really appreciate you coming on the call today. You’re in a very enviable position going into this Queen’s Plate with two of the top contenders.  Lets start with the Plate Trial winner, Amis Gizmo.  He dominated the two-year old stakes there last fall, then he got a good amount of time off, so could you just talk about the plan that you set in motion over the winter to get him to the Queen’s Plate in top form?

Josie Carroll:

(Inaudible) we finally put him around two turns.  We were really happy with that performance.  So Mr. Dalos and I talked about it and decided that the best thing he had had, you know, four pretty stiff races right in a row so we turned him out down in Ocala at Wavertree for—just for a couple of weeks just to get his head down and get some grass and then he came into Palm Meadows in Florida.  We had originally planned maybe a start at Keeneland and things just didn’t shape up the way we wanted so we ended up coming back to Woodbine for his first start of the year.

Jim Mulvihill:

That was the Wando.  So when you say things didn’t come together for a start at Keeneland, was that anything physical that…

Josie Carroll:

Yes, just timing, he had a little virus that maybe (inaudible) work, something that many wouldn’t be right on his A game to run.  So you didn’t want to run them less than 100%.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very good.  So now then he ends up running a huge race in the Plate Trial, just talk about that effort and the way he finished that day.

Josie Carroll:

Through his two-year old career he’s been pretty forwardly placed in all his races and he was gradually get more and more aggressive and our concern was the aim being the mile a quarter race is getting (inaudible) so Luis (inaudible) in the mornings and (inaudible) quite a bit with at first getting him to relax a little bit and he really—it really kind of came to fruition in the Plate Trial.  He dropped a bit and when he did pick it up he just floated.

Jim Mulvihill:

Well, and you mentioned Luis who has done so much work with this horse but he also has ridden a filly as well.  So can I ask is there any word yet on which one he’ll be named on come entry time tomorrow?

Josie Carroll:

Mr. Dalos and I talked it over and we decided since he has put the work in on both the horses we’d give him the option.  At this time we think he’s leaning towards the colt.

Jim Mulvihill:

Interesting.  But you leave that entirely up to him and you don’t—do you have a preference or do you just feel like it should be his decision?

Josie Carroll:

You know what, I don’t—They are two really nice horses, they’re two very, very different horses.  The one horse likes to be forwardly placed, the one’s going to be a closer.  So really he suits both horses so we thought we’d just leave it up to him and let him take the horse he wanted.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very interesting.  Well, I also want to talk about your owner.  You mentioned Ivan.  He’s best known here in the states for breeding Victory Gallop but that was a long time ago.  Now he’s got two homebreds in the Queen’s Plate so he’s clearly doing something right.  What can you tell us about Ivan?  What should we know about him?  What kind of owner is he?

Josie Carroll:

I think his breeding program has gotten really, really strong, particularly out of those Victory Gallop mares.  I would say the last five years he’s bred a lot of good horses.  He’s winning a lot of stake races with them both the ones he keeps, the ones he sells.  He’s a very patient man and he has—he usually has a plan in mind of what he’d like you to accomplish and then he leaves it to you to get the job done which certainly makes life easier.

Jim Mulvihill:

Is part of that plan trying to win the Queen’s Plate?  I mean is that a goal for him the way that maybe some American breeders would be obsessed with, say the Derby and the American Triple Crown?

Josie Carroll:

I think he’d be delighted to win it.  His goal really is just to do—for the horses that he breeds to really accomplish something and of course the Queen’s Plate being the—you know, the kind of ultimate Canadian race.

Jim Mulvihill:

Right.  Very good.  Very interesting.  Well we should also get into Gamble’s Ghost a little bit more.  Just missed in the Oaks but is a multiple graded stakes winner.  It looks like the leading earner in the field and you’ve won this race with a filly before.  So just tell us a little bit about her and how she stacks up against this field and perhaps even compares to say Inglorious or other good fillies that you have.  That’s a lot of questions at once.

Josie Carroll:

Yes.  Yes, she’s a really tough filly.  She’s just a competitor.  Her style is kind of—is hard on us.  She’s a deep closing filly.  She likes to be—she likes to just go along easy and then when she takes off she really takes off.  So it’s a ‘put her in jackpot.’

Jim Mulvihill:

Sure, sure.  After the Woodbine Oaks or at what point were you thinking of this race?

Josie Carroll:

We always had it in the back of our heads should she win the Woodbine Oaks or run really big in it and bounce out of it well would we take her to the Plate or would we just go to the Bison City, the Canadian Triple Tiara for a filly.

Jim Mulvihill:

Yes, great race on its own right.

Josie Carroll:

Yes, and that was certainly a possibility but I thought she showed so much talent particularly in that last race.  I mean she had a very troubled trip, got knocked around, got cut up a little bit from being stepped on, then it looked like she was going to get there in the stretch and another horse came up and bothered her.  So despite all that she just kept on trying.  She’s a tenacious filly.  I thought we’d be remised not to give her a chance in here if she bounced out of the race well.

Jim Mulvihill:

Excellent.  Well that tenacity could serve her well in what looks like a full field.  Josie, if you don’t mind holding on for a second, I’m going to check with the Operator, Michelle, and we’ll see if we have questions from the media for you.

Ron Gierkink:

Hey Josie.  Ahead of the two horses, you know, Gamble’s Ghost had a much more taxing trip obviously, the trouble and everything that she had.  So is it a concern coming back in three weeks with her as opposed to the other horse?

Josie Carroll:

Well, actually after that trip we’ve kind of said “Well this may not work out” and we sort of set up parameters and she didn’t come out of the race well, she wouldn’t go, and then if she didn’t hit her mark when we worked her then we simply wouldn’t go.  At all times Mr. Dalos said if at any time we’re not happy and you don’t want to go we just don’t go and she did well off of the race.  I asked Luis to work her on a one-on-one.  She hit that spot on and galloped out well and then I kind of said “If she doesn’t eat up her dinner in the morning, if it looks like it was too taxing,” she licked the bottom of her tub clean.  So at each sort of checkpoint she sort of checked the boxes.

Ron Gierkink:

I see.  I guess do you feel confident at the mile and a quarter with both horses?

Josie Carroll:

A mile and a quarter is always an unknown distance but I think both of their last races made me feel a lot better about it.

 

Alex Campbell:

Hi Josie.  I just wanted to ask about Gamble’s Ghost specifically.  Obviously you touched on the trouble she encountered in the Oaks (inaudible) down on the inside.  Do you have any preference for trip in the Plate or are you may be hoping for an outside draw just to kind of keep her out of trouble so she can make that nice run that she has of late?

Josie Carroll:

I mean it is a mile and a quarter, so we would hope that at some point you’ll be able to find your way to the outside with her and keep her out of trouble.

Alex Campbell:

Okay.  Given the recent kind of leaning towards Amis Gizmo at the moment, do you have another rider for Gamble’s Ghost?

Josie Carroll:

Whichever horse is the alternate, Patrick Husbands will ride.

 

Jim Mulvihill:

All right, Josie, lots of great info from you.  Just to wrap up, I’m thinking about the Queen’s Plate from the perspective of some of the American media that we have on this call listening today.  I’m just wondering as an Ontario native and someone who’s based at Woodbine if you can just describe for all of us what this race means to Canadian racing and to you personally.

Josie Carroll:

I mean I grew up with a passion for racing and watching racing and this was the high point of the summer.  It’s certainly a goal for all the Canadian breeders.  It’s a very special race and some very nice horses that won it.

Jim Mulvihill:

Very good.  Well we look forward to watching on Sunday, and congrats on getting to this point with two very, very good contenders.  We really appreciate your time today.

Josie Carroll:

Thank you.

Jim Mulvihill:

All right.  Josie Carroll, she’s going to have two in the Queen’s Plate on Sunday.  Now a few reminders.  Estimated post time for the Queen’s Plate on Sunday is 5:30-8:00 pm Eastern time and don’t forget you can catch the draw tomorrow morning at 10 am on queensplate.com.  If you’re a writer working on a Queen’s Plate story and need any assistance, feel free to reach out to myself or Joan Lawrence.  I’ll be on site at Woodbine beginning Friday.  My thanks again to our guests, Graham Motion, Roger Attfield and Josie Carroll, as well as to Joan Lawrence for coordinating this lineup, and to the DRS contributors that are based up in Canada for coming on and asking some good questions today.  Thanks everybody for being on the call.  We’ll be back in a few weeks with the start of our Road to the Breeders Cup teleconferences.  Appreciate your time

 

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