LEXINGTON, Ky. -- What a sendoff he would receive from his American compadres if Roger Attfield could win the closing-day Elkorn Stakes at Keeneland for the third straight time with 10-year-old Musketier. It's already been an unforgettable week for Attfield, with his election to the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame having been announced Monday, and it won't be long until the 72-year-old English-born trainer will head back to Woodbine in Canada to resume his status as a living legend.
First, though, is this business of winning the same Keeneland stakes for a third straight year, which has been done only once before in the track's 76-year history, when Royal Harmony swept the Fayette Handicap from 1969-71. Considering the breadth of his prior feats, it would surprise no one if Attfield were to do it with Musketier, the seemingly ageless gray horse who took the 2010 Elkhorn at 7-1 and the 2011 renewal as the 2-1 favorite, both under John Velazquez.
Attfield, who was scheduled to be very busy as this 15-day meet came to a close -- he had horses entered in four races Thursday and three on Friday, including the uncoupled duo of Musketier and Simmard in the Elkhorn -- has named Jose Lezcano to ride Musketier. They will start from post 1 in a field of nine entered in the Grade 2, $150,000 Elkhorn, which is run around three turns at 1 1/2 miles on turf.
Despite his sparking record in the Elkhorn, and also in spite of the decent form he has kept while remaining extremely active for his age, Musketier won't be favored in his quest for a three-peat. That role surely will fall to Newsdad (post 4), a Bill Mott-trained 4-year-old who has steadily surged to the top of this niche division on the strength of his winter campaign at Gulfstream Park, where he sandwiched victories in an allowance and the Grade 2 Pan American around a narrow defeat as the favorite in the Grade 2 Mac Diarmida, all of them grass marathons with Julien Leparoux aboard. Leparoux keeps the mount Friday.
Simmard, the other Attfield runner, is in similarly good form, having run very well in three Grade 2 winter races, most notably his nose victory over Newsdad in the Feb. 26 Mac Diarmida. Javier Castellano rides from post 5.
"Both of my horses are coming into it the right way," said Attfield. "I am very honored that the voters thought enough of me to put me into the Hall of Fame. Hopefully we can end a big week by winning this stake."
Incidentally, Velazquez, who will join Attfield in the class of 2012 Hall of Fame inductees in August, has the call on Point of Entry (post 2), a sharp winner of a second-level turf allowance earlier at this meet.
Rounding out the cast for the 27th Elkhorn are Wilkinson, Skipshot, Tahoe Lake, Suntracer, and Center Divider. Of those, Center Divider probably rates the best chance at a mild upset.
Friday closes out what has been a terrific meet for Keeneland, where attendance and handle figures were approaching record pace as the final three-day stretch began Wednesday. First post for the 10-race finale is 1:05 p.m. Eastern, with the Elkhorn (race 9) going at 5:13.