TORONTO — For the first time this year, Starship Jubilee will have home-track advantage.
Trainer Kevin Attard said Tuesday that Starship Jubilee, Canada’s reigning horse of the year, will run in the $1-million Woodbine Mile on Saturday at Woodbine Racetrack. After making five starts this season in the U.S. — winning four — the Mile will be the champion mare’s first race this year on home soil.
“Obviously it’s a tough task to be taking on the boys but this is home-field advantage for us too,” Attard said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “She’s had a great campaign so far and I think she deserves a chance.
“When you don’t have to go into the van and travel and just have to leave your backyard and go out there, I think it makes things a lot easier.”
Starship Jubilee has been a road warrior this season, having run at Gulfstream (twice) and Tampa Bay in Florida and Saratoga (twice) in New York. After registering four straight wins, the seven-year-old was fourth in the Grade 1 Diana Stakes at Saratoga but still boasts season earnings of US$467,280.
“She’s been shipping out of town . . . I just didn’t want to do it to her again,” Attard said. “It’s strenuous on them and I really wanted to find a race at home for her.
“She obviously has a good appreciation for the course and timing-wise this race kind of fit. That’s why we’re going to give her the try and obviously we think she’ll be competitive.”
Canada’s champion turf female the last three years has won 18 of 37 career starts for over $1.878 million. One of those victories came in last year’s E.P. Taylor Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile race on grass at Woodbine, giving Attard his first Grade 1 triumph.
“Definitely, it’s one of my greatest accomplishments, no doubt,” Attard said. “The E.P. Taylor is a very special race, very prestigious, and it’s a tough one to win because there’s always a lot of European horses flying over to compete in that race.
“You look at some of the past winners, they were great racehorses and have gone on to become great producers. Just to have my name in the history books beside her name and hopefully one day she becomes as good a mom as she is a racehorse.”
Given Starship Jubilee’s age, this could be her final season on the track. That call, though, will ultimately be made by the horse’s connections and fortunately for Attard, the horse isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.
“I don’t think so, either, and I’m glad for it, too,” he said.
But capturing the Mile won’t be easy, especially with War of Will, the 2019 Preakness Stakes winner, headlining a projected seven-horse field. War of Will is expected to be one of three horses Mark Casse — Canada’s top trainer an unprecedented 11 times — will have in the race, with March to the Arch and Olympic Runner being the others.
Only two other female horses have won the Mile: Ventura (2009) and Tepin (2016).
A seven-horse field would be the second-smallest in race history as only six rode in the 2013 Mile. And a win would be Casse’s third, moving him into a tie for most ever with Neil Drysdale, Robert Frankel and Charles LoPresti.
In addition to securing the $600,000 top prize, the winner will garner a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile in November at Keeneland in Kentucky.
“He (War of Will) is a multiple Grade 1 winner and will probably be the favourite and rightfully so,” Attard said. “Everybody will have their work cut out for them but it’s a horse race.
“(Starship Jublilee has) been successful at a mile and is doing well. Obviously that (Breeders’ Cup) is a goal for us. We’re hoping we can get there with her this year and this gives you an automatic berth.”
Regardless of how Starship Jubilee finishes Saturday, she owes Attard and her connections nothing. Attard claimed the horse for US$16,000 in 2017 and admits she has far exceeded expectations.
“I didn’t see this coming, not for an instant, never,” he said candidly. “She’s gotten better with age, she’s been a real pleasure to have and I feel real fortunate she’s come into my life.”
Attard said the reason for Starship Jubilee’s success is two-fold.
“First is she’s been so consistent for such a long period of time,” he said. “In this sport, it’s rare that you see horses like her . . . that consistency year after year, that she can compete at the highest level makes her special.
“The other thing is she’s such a versatile runner. She can be on the lead, she can come off the pace. She’s just a true competitor and doesn’t have a preference or running style. She just gets into that gate and wants to do it.”
With Woodbine-based jockey Justin Stein expected to get his first ride aboard Starship Jubilee on Saturday, that versatility could prove beneficial.
With only seven horses expected in the field, jockeys should theoretically find it easier to garner sufficient racing room. But Attard isn’t about to assume anything.
“I’ve seen horses get into trouble in a small field,” he said. “You’d like to think there’s less traffic, but sometimes unfortunately that doesn’t always happen.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press