Roger Attfield knows there are certain things he must do if he is to keep his graded-stakes winning charge Musketier happy on a day-to-day basis.
"He doesn't like being in his stall a lot, so keep him outside quite a bit when we can, and he also has a teddy bear that he is very fond of," Attfield said with a laugh.
When a horse is 9 years old and still has the kind of kick that can put rivals half his age to shame, you pretty much give in to any demand.
On the closing day of the Keeneland Spring Meet, Musketier added another graded-stakes win to his résumé when he collared pacesetter Rahy's Attorney in deep stretch to claim the Grade II, $150,000 Elkhorn Stakes by a widening 11/4 lengths over Pool Play.
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With precious few 11/2-mile turf races to be found, the Elkhorn's 10-horse field was filled with veterans, such as Grade I winner Telling and the 7-year-old Rahy's Attorney, the 2008 champion grass horse in Canada.
Musketier was the oldest, and he came into the race as the defending winner. He was beaten by just three-quarters of a length by Rahy's Attorney in the Grade III Pan American Stakes at Gulfstream on March 26.
"He's great, isn't he? When I've got him right, he runs big races," Attfield said of the 2-1 favorite. "He's a horse that needs to be really happy. I knew when he was in the paddock today, he was showing his backside a couple times, so I knew he was in a fighting mood."
For a while, it appeared the Elkhorn was going to be a repeat of what transpired in the Pan American. Rahy's Attorney established a clear advantage on the front end while carving out a relaxed opening half-mile in :51.35.
With John Velazquez up, Musketier settled in sixth and seventh throughout the grass marathon before moving up three-wide between Telling and Bearpath with about 3 furlongs out to put himself into position for his stretch run.
"I didn't want to get clear too soon and be running off," Velazquez said. "I knew he has that kick. He won here last year, so I was hoping, when I pulled him out, he would respond in just the same way, and he did."
Tough as Rahy's Attorney can be when left loose on the lead, the 7-year-old gelding couldn't answer Musketier's big finishing kick down the middle of the track as the latter covered the distance in 2:32.04 over a course rated good.
Pool Play put in a rally of his own to get second with Windward Islands third.
Owned by Stella Perdomo, Musketier earned his eighth win from 38 starts, including four in graded stakes, while improving his earnings to $771,430.
"I have great respect for Rahy's Attorney; we've been competitors against each other for a long time," said Attfield, who did not have a next start picked out for Musketier. "You get to him, and he has a bit more left, but this horse has a big stride and a lot of momentum and, at the eighth pole, it was obvious he was going to go on with it."