Dan Loiselle is one of the best track announcers in the business. No doubt he does a fair bit of preparation for races with the history and magnitude of the Queen's Plate and when it comes to the subject of this profile, well, don't you just want to hear what Loiselle might come up with should Who We Gunna Call shake loose down the stretch?
Trainer Tino Attard and the best named horse in the Queen's Plate
I caught up with the trainer of Who We Gunna Call, Tino Attard, on a wet Saturday morning on the Woodbine backstretch. The veteran conditioner was busy checking on his horses in Barn 35 but was more than happy to pull the Plate contender from his stall to snap a few photos in a bit of a drizzle.
Attard has made five previous appearances in the Queen's Plate with a third place effort by Brushing Bully in 2001 his best result. But there's a certain sparkle in the trainer's eye as he talks about Who We Gunna Call that suggests he knows the horse is rounding into form.
"He's so good right now," grinned Attard. "He's been working great."
As we chat, Who We Gunna Call walks slow circles around the trainer occasionally stopping for a bite of grass or to nuzzle into his boss. But Attard hasn't always been the trainer of record.
On February 18th of this year, the brilliantly named Who We Gunna Call (he's a Ghostzapper, out of Touch Dial...get it?) broke his maiden as the even-money choice going 1M40 at Tampa Bay Downs for trainer William Phipps. Tahquamenon led the $17K MSW field as Who We Gunna Call, Who's There and Chabichou followed closely for some six furlongs before making their moves with Who We Gunna Call assuming the lead. Chabichou tried in vain, but Who We Gunna Call was determined and held strong to earn the honours. (To see the race video, click here.)
The win was a solid effort over a distance of ground in just the second lifetime race for the Adena Springs bred colt. Who We Gunna Call would re-surface two months later at Gulfstream Park finishing sixth in a N1X turf allowance and then promptly disappeared from the public eye.
"I ain't 'fraid of no colts..."
As it turns out the horse was quite ill and needed time to overcome a variety of nagging issues. Owners Castle Peak Farm eventually made the decision to ship Who We Gunna Call to Woodbine and the capable hands of trainer Tino Attard.
"When he came to Toronto, he was so sick," recalled Attard. "It took about six weeks to get him right. I was going to run him (on May 23, 2010) and he was in at a mile and an eighth. I came to the barn that afternoon and I see him coughing and full of mucus. I called my vet and we scratched him."
Apparently Who We Gunna Call had a bit of a 'Slimer' issue. Attard patiently waited until June 13th for his horse to be well enough to get into the starting gate in a mile and an eighth N1X allowance. Not unexpectedly, Who We Gunna Call went to post as a 20-1 long shot under jockey Gerry Olguin. After starting well enough, the colt found a bit of traffic trouble but rallied well late when asked to chase home a solid Mark Casse trainee named So Elite.
Who We Gunna Call (#2) rallies on the outside to finish third on June 13th
"He didn't like running inside," said Olguin of that June 13th trip. "So when I brought him outside he came with a good run, but he ran really spotty...but the horse is peaking now and he's going to run his best race on Queen's Plate day."
Olguin is encouraged by the colt's recent workouts.
"The last breeze he had was outstanding," gleamed Olguin this past Sunday at Woodbine. "He breezes again tomorrow. We'll send him five furlongs in company and he has blinkers on him so there's a little more focus on the horse. There's going to be a lot of horses in the race so I just hope to make a nice run with the horse and get lucky."
Who We Gunna Call raced third on June 13th at Woodbine
That breeze in company Olguin referred to was a solid one. The Ghostzapper fellow put in a sharp five furlong workout on June 28th in 1:00.80 that was ranked ninth out of 50 efforts for the morning. (You can watch Who We Gunna Call work six furlongs back on June 22nd by clicking here.)
This Sunday when the field bursts from the gate, Olguin hopes to take advantage of his horse's recent sharpness to find the perfect position.
"It all depends on pace," explained Olguin. "If they're going to go slow I'll be up close. If they're going to be fast upfront, I'll lay a little further back. I don't want to use the horse until the last quarter mile."
But does Olguin think the horse has the talent to win?
"We'll just have to wait and see on Sunday," smiled Olguin. "The horse can run, it just depends on who shows up that day. None of the horses have gone the distance before, but Tino has been galloping him two miles and when he works out he has a good gallop out."
Jockey Gerry Olguin guides the Ghostbuster in the Queen's Plate
Handicappers looking for odds this Sunday might look no further than a horse whose daddy was 2004's Champion Older Male and Horse of the Year after winning the G1 Woodward and the Breeders' Cup Classic - and just one further step back to grandpa Awesome Again who was a Queen's Plate winner in 1997. But Attard might prefer those long shot Plate day punters reference the dam of Who We Gunna Call, Touch Dial, who won the Woodbine Oaks for the conditioner in 1999 under jockey Mickey Walls. Given Who We Gunna Call's pedigree, it would not be a surprise to see the 62 year-old trainer coax a winning effort from his patient prodigy.
Ghostzapper wins the 2004 Breeders' Cup
As we stood in the rain behind Barn 35, I asked Attard what he wanted from his colt on Plate day and if his charge could put a scare into the field.
"I hope he has a safe trip and stays out of trouble," smiled Attard. "This is a top race against nice horses but you have to give him a shot right?"
That you do - and Attard will be hoping his horse fires full stream.
Who We Gunna Call? GHOSTBUSTERS!
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There was some sad news to report yesterday as Canadian Triple Crown winner With Approval died at the age of 24. Blood-Horse.Com reports:
With Approval, a Canadian Horse of the Year and Triple Crown winner as a homebred for the Willmot family’s Kinghaven Farm and a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, died June 21. The 24-year-old son of Caro stood at Kirsten Rausing’s Lanwades Stud near Newmarket, England.
“We will greatly miss With Approval at Lanwades,” Rausing said in a statement. “He was a true gentleman to work with; very fertile and a most attractive horse. We hope that the several fillies he sired whilst at Lanwades will continue to keep his name in lights, both whilst racing and in the future, as broodmares.”
Triple Crown Winner - With Approval - R.I.P
The galloping grey was a talented fellow on both surfaces and his races at Woodbine are burned into my memory. He'll be well missed.
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It must be Queen's Plate week as the articles just keep on coming.
Beverley Smith of the Globe & Mail reminds us that Roger Attfield is chasing his record ninth Queen's Plate.
Bill Lankhof of the Toronto Sun also wants us to know that it's a big week for Roger Attfield.
Bill Tallon of the Daily Racing Form provides a deeper look into the conditioning of Roan Inish.
Dave Fuller of the Toronto Sun goes inside the world of "crazy" Big Red Mike.
Woodbine Media reported that Embur's Song will skip the Queen's Plate and head to the second leg of the Triple Tiara instead.
But perhaps the most important story I found on the wire yesterday, and good news for all the horses entered this Sunday, is that the Woodbine starting gate might just be the best in the biz. Deirdre Mills reported for thehorse.com on some encouraging comments about the Rexdale track by Keeneland's President Nick Nicholson, at the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held June 25 at the Lexington track.
"The starting gate is probably the (site of the) most dangerous single moment (in racing), and yet we really haven't studied it over the years," he said. "Most of the starting gates are 50 years old or more. There has been very little improvement done from an engineering or analysis standpoint of the starting gate. Woodbine has done some very good work, which is a glaring, wonderful exception to that, but most improvements in starting gates have been slow to take place."
Woodbine's starting gate was a $400,000 investment last year and I spent a fun night last July following Woodbine's top notch crew go through their paces. The resulting story earned a Sovereign Award nomination. Click the link to read the piece entitled, They're REALLY at the post.
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As always, you can keep track of the latest goings on in the world of horse racing by clicking into my Woodbine News page or backtrack though information on Sunday's contenders by clicking into my Queen's Plate contender page.
As it currently stands, the 2010 Queen's Plate field is:
Confirmed (12): Big Red Mike, D's Wando, Dark Cloud Dancer, Ghost Fleet, Giant's Tomb, Hotep, Mobilizer, Mobthewarrior, Roan Inish, Smart Sky, Vicar Street and Who We Gunna Call
On the bubble (2): Captain Canuck, Moment of Majesty