When Perfect Shirl rushed through the grassy stretch . . . overtook the gang of leaders . . . and won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf she had accomplished more than one racing feat.
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Now five years old and still racing, Perfect Shirl had become a millionairess and she had given trainer Roger Attfield the added feather in his racing cap he needed to be inducted into the U. S. Racing Hall of Fame.
Before she took the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf, Perfect Shirl had only one other graded stakes win, that being the Grade II Lake George at Saratoga in 2010. Her other two wins had come in a maiden special weight race that was followed by an allowance win.
Even though there have been just four career wins in 15 tries, she has earned $1,390,719 and been in the money in 11 of those efforts.
Trainer Attfield is a Canadian by birth. And that birth came 72 years ago. He has attained so much success in his home country that his placement in the U. S. Hall of Fame made him one of only two people whose accomplishments have been enough to get them inducted into both the Canadian and American Hall of Fames.
His reputation has been earned at Woodbine near Toronto where his 40 years of accomplishments were noted during his induction into the Canadian Hall of Fame.
He has won eight Queen’s Plate victories, eight outstanding trainer awards, more than 1,730 wins and 368 stakes races. There have been seven Canadian Triple Crown winners and Attfield has trained three of them.
An equestrian competitor until 1970, Attfield moved from England to Canada at that time and quickly found enough success to be hired by Kinghaven Farms and Frank Stronach.
By 2011, he had trained six thoroughbreds that had named Canadian Horse of the Year.
When he sends thoroughbreds south to the United States he has them race mostly at Keeneland, the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, and Gulfstream in Florida.
Prior to the rushing finish put on by Perfect Shirl in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup win Attfield’s most recognized wins in America came in the Wood Memorial and the Gotham Stakes.
Perfect Shirl was foaled in 2007. She never raced at age two, but was sent to America at three to make her debut at Gulfstream in March of 2010. After finishing second in that first race, she went to Keeneland and was only fifth in her second try.
Attfield brought her back to Canada and Woodbine for still another maiden special weight race. But she was only third to thoroughbreds Bubble Gum and Full Moon Party.
Still at Woodbine, she broke her maiden in her fourth race winning against a field of nine others at the distance of 1 1/8-miles.
Attfield had already tested her on the turf and dirt and would next send her in an allowance race on the synthetic surface at Woodbine. She won for the second straight time.
In July of 2010, Attfield had her in the Grade II Lake George Stakes at Saratoga in the state of New York. For the first time, John Velezquez was her jockey. Velazquez and Perfect Shirl teamed well enough to post an upset win in the Lake George.
She was listed as a 15-1 longshot in the program. The field had 12 others and even the Saratoga handicapper couldn’t make any of them more feared than 7-2 odds. Perfect Shirl was bet down to 9-1 by the time the gate opened to begin the race.
Attfield looked beyond his comfortable haunts and sent her to Del Mar near San Diego for the Grade I Del Mar Oaks. The rider was Chantal Sutherland . . . but the result was a third place finish. Her last race in 2010 came at Keeneland in the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, another Grade I event run at 1 1/8-miles. Velazquez returned as the rider. His luck was sour. The large blue “V” on his silks couldn’t signify “victory” because Perfect Shirl was a disappointing eighth.
Rested over the winter months of 2010-11, she had her next race in April of 2011 at Keeneland in a commotionless allowance race. The mile distance was a little short for a late runner like Perfect Shirl and she was only fourth.
Five more times in the next 19 months did Attfield race her. And the best she did was a second in the Grade II Canadian Stakes and a third in the Bell Mahone Stakes.
She had an eight-race losing skid when entered in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare at 1 3/8-miles on the turf at Churchill Downs.
Eleven furlongs proved to be a perfect setting for loosing Perfect Shirl’s late kick. She and rider Velazquez were content to get into an easy rhythm without expending too much energy. They were sitting in eighth or ninth place for the first mile, always saving ground by staying next to the leafless hedge on the inside.
A virtual blanket of seven horses stomped on their accelerators as mid-stretch was reached. In the last 100 yards, Perfect Swirl inched ahead, squarely in the middle of the lane. She wouldn’t be caught, winning by an expanding three-quarters of a length.
Attfield went into the U. S. Hall of Fame. Perfect Swirl went to another winter of rest.
She was not retired.
She came back in February at Gulfstream in the Grade III They Very One. It was another turf race and it was also at 1 3/8-miles. Perfect Shirl’s five-year-old debut fizzled. She was never a factor because her usual late-running burst of ground-eating power was never unleashed. She was a non-threatening eighth and never exerted any authority over the others.
Attfield has not raced her since.
At age five, it might not take more than one or two more lacklustre finishes to finish her as a lively competitor.
Her list of close relatives could make her a much-desired broodmare when retirement does finally come.
The popular Sadler’s Wells is one of her grandsires. None other than Secretariat and Northern Dancer are great grandsires. And a step farther back are Bold Ruler, Exclusive Native, Raise a Native, Nearctic, Natalma, and Secretariat’s mother, Somethingroyal.
Perfect Shirl helped voters to believe more firmly in the credentials of Attfield, who they brought to the U. S. Hall of Fame. She has become a millionairess . . . and she did it in 15 career races.[/cleeng_content]