TORONTO — Starship Jubilee has made a career of exceeding expectations.
In 2017, Tino Attard claimed the then four-year-old filly for $16,000 with the intention of breeding her. But she’s continually put those plans on hold by piling up wins on the racetrack.
Last month, the seven-year-old champion mare became the oldest winner of the $1-million Woodbine Mile. On Tuesday, Canada’s 2019 horse of the year will depart for Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., to run in the Breeders’ Cup, thoroughbred racing’s equivalent to the Super Bowl that attracts many of the world’s top horses.
The Woodbine Mile victory secured Starship Jubilee, the 5/1 fourth pick, an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Mile. But the connections are also looking at the Filly and Mare Turf event.
“We’re just trying to figure out where her best opportunity is but, obviously, in these kind of races that’s hard to do because there’s no easy spot,” trainer Kevin Attard, Tino’s son, said during a telephone interview Friday. “When you come to something like this, you’re hooking the best of the best from everywhere.”
Starship Jubilee has won five-of-six races this year and 19-of-38 lifetime starts while amassing over $2 million in earnings.
Starship Jubilee’s Woodbine Mile win came over a field that included War of Will, the 2019 Preakness winner. She became just the third female horse to capture the event after Ventura (2009) and Tepin (2016).
Tino Attard claimed Starship Jubilee following a second-place finish in a turf race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 12, 2017. At the time Kevin Attard didn’t believe Starship Jubilee was necessarily finished on the track.
“They weren’t really looking to buy her as a racing prospect but I mentioned that I thought she still had a lot left and wasn’t done,” Attard said. “But I didn’t anticipate what she’d turn out to be, either.
“She’s always kind of stepped up to the challenge, she just enjoys what she does. Sometimes in sport you see someone defy the odds by age and still compete at a high level. You don’t really see mares run at her age and compete at the level she has.”
In fact, Attard believes Starship Jubilee is at her racing best.
“With the season she’s had and winning the Mile at Woodbine, arguably I think she’s at her best,” Attard said. “At seven years old, obviously it’s a bit of a surprise but what can you say?
“She’s been a horse that’s defied everything, really.”
Attard said Starship Jubilee came out of the Mile just fine and he’s been happy with her workouts. He adds there’s been no mention of this possibly being the mare’s final race.
“We’ve always taken a one-race approach with her and we’re kind of heading into (Breeders;’ Cup) with her now with the same kind of mindset,” he said. “We’re trying to get her to this race as best prepared as we can be.
“We’ll kind of enjoy the moment, let her run and hopefully she does to the best of her ability. Then we’ll decide afterwards.”
And while a Breeders’ Cup victory would only add to Starship Jubilee’s amazing story, Attard said there’ll be no expectations placed upon the horse at Keeneland.
“Obviously it (Breeders’ Cup win) would be a great story and another chapter in an illustrious career,” Attard said. “Regardless, though, if she were to not come up with a typical race like she normally does, we’re still going to hold our heads high with her.
“She’s a multiple Grade 1 winner now and you have to think about where she’s come from and what she’s accomplished. She’s definitely going to be a horse that kind of goes down in the history books.”
Surprisingly, Starship Jubilee hasn’t mellowed with age.
“She’s very aggressive, she’s a very feisty mare with plenty of attitude,” Attard said. “She’s not a laid-back filly or mare that you can turn the other way with.
“You’ve got to keep your eyes peeled at all times because she’s not shy about biting at you or kicking at you. Don’t let your guard down.”
Attard said that competitive nature becomes quite evident on the track, even during workouts.
“When she’s out there training and sees other horses, she wants to go and catch them and run them down,” he said. “Again, she just loves what she does.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 30, 2020
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press