Payson Winner Of The Week
Carrumba made a successful - and for her connections an emotional - return to the races Sunday at Aqueduct, edging away from Mei Ling in deep stretch to win the Grade 3, $200,000 Top Flight Invitational Handicap by a hard-fought half-length.
The victory comes just five days after Ogden Mills "Dinny" Phipps, the owner and breeder of Carrumba, died. Phipps's son, Ogden II, walked Carrumba into the winner's circle following the victory.
"Absolutely, this win was emotional," the younger Phipps said. "Our first time back at the races and it's obviously a big part of how we grew up with my dad. Coming back here and seeing a filly that he really loved and winning a stake is very emotional. Every time one of our horses runs in his colors I think it's going to be emotional for us."
This was the fifth win for the Phipps family in the Top Flight. The first came in 1951 with Busanda for Ogden Phipps, Dinny's father and Ogden's grandfather. Dinny Phipps won this race in 1994 with Educated Risk, in 2001 with Cat Cay, and in 2004 with Daydreaming.
Carrumba is by Bernardini but her female family is full of Grade 1 winners campaigned by the Phipps family, including Heavenly Prize, the champion 3-year-old filly of 1994.
Trainer Shug McGaughey feels Carrumba could elevate into the upper echelon of the older filly and mare division and Sunday's Top Flight was a good first step.
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.