Attraction, the most charismatic filly to grace the turf this year, bows out for the season on Saturday at Newmarket, the scene of her defining triumph in the 1000 Guineas. Her goal is to take a fourth Group One, the Sun Chariot Stakes, into winter quarters before embarking on another exhilarating campaign in 2005.
The Duke of Roxburghe, Attraction’s owner-breeder, has plumped for the bold policy of keeping his English and Irish Guineas heroine in training next year.
He reasons: “I’ll never have a horse as good as her again. I said this after what she did last year and now look what she’s done.
“There are two ways of looking at it. Yes, it would be nice to send her off to the paddocks and, hopefully, her foals would be decent racehorses and make some good money. But at the end of the day there’s the opportunity of her winning some more good races if she runs up to her top form and we’d have a lot of fun with her.
The Duke, who agreed with trainer Mark Johnston that Attraction would be best served bypassing last week’s QEII Stakes for Newmarket, adds: “The Sun Chariot will be her finale for the year because she’s had a long season and deserves a good break. She’ll be turned out in her paddock, where she spent her summer holiday at Mark’s, and then come home to us.”
If Attraction has half the fun she enjoyed during her mid-summer vacation, she will go on her winter break to the Duke’s seat, Floors Castle, near Kelso, in great heart
A new routine – being turned out after exercise each morning – was suggested by the Duke of Roxburghe following Attraction’s first defeat at the hands of the year older Soviet Song in Newmarket’s Falmouth Stakes. The Duke believed that his turbo-charged filly would benefit from a short break away from it all.
The idea had the desired effect. Attraction, happy and relaxed, was enjoying her respite from the hectic job of running her rivals ragged in three of the early season’s most prestigious races, the English and Irish 1000 Guineas and the Coronation Stakes.
No other filly has achieved such a monumental feat.
Her ever astute handler Johnston had been slightly anxious at first when the Duke talked of experimenting with this change in Attraction’s training procedure.
“It terrified me that we were treating her differently,” says Johnston. “I said I didn’t mind experimenting, but I wasn’t keen to do it with my best horse. The Duke felt that she wanted a change after having such a hard time and so many runs in quick succession. Just to try and get her to switch off a bit.”
Attraction’s paddock is at Park Farm, which was bought by Johnston during the winter and acts as yet another overflow yard for his flourishing base at Kingsley House in the heart of North Yorkshire’s enchanting training centre, Middleham.
“The Duke always said he would take responsibility for the decision, and he wanted to try it,” explained Johnston.
There are many stories about this unique filly, not least about her wonky legs, reference to which is inclined to annoy the trainer. Originally, the Duke asked Johnston to Floors Castle to see if he thought Attraction was trainable.
“I told him ‘of course she’s trainable’; I’ve trained a lot worse. Even at Group level I’ve trained horses with worse legs,” insists Johnston.
Somehow, there always seems to have been a leading question hanging over the future of this extraordinary dual Classic winner. Johnston says that the most challenging part of handling Attraction came last year when a fractured pedal bone prevented her from running in Newmarket’s Cheveley Park Stakes.
The filly kicked had kicked out, smashing her manger and fracturing her pedal bone, and a decision had to be reached whether she should continue in training as a three-year-old.
With hindsight and the knowledge of those historic victories at Newmarket, The Curragh, Royal Ascot and those titanic battles in defeat at Newmarket and Leopardstown with the other super filly Soviet Song, it is hard to believe there was ever a doubt.
“At the time it didn’t seem that difficult, but with hindsight of course it now looks a mega decision,” smiles Johnston.
Cheveley Park plans were shelved and after Attraction was given two months box rest at Floors Castle it was finally agreed that she should remain in training.
“Mark was very keen that she be fed quite a lot during her two months’ box rest, albeit a stud mix rather than a racing mix,” recalls the Duke. “He wanted her to keep her muscle definition and shape, not lose it, as she would have done if we’d put her on a couple of pounds of chop and a lot of hay.
“She had 12lb-14lb a day for eight weeks and, amazingly, it didn’t blow her brains. But by the end of it she was quite feisty and I think the stud staff were relieved to see her go back into training on 1 December after all the responsibility of looking after her. She was then able to go into road work, walking and trotting, before she started cantering at the beginning of February.”
The rest is, as they say, history. Attraction’s unique achievements, an unbeaten run of eight culminating in the two Guineas and the Coronation, are worthy of mention in the same breath as Sceptre and Pretty Polly, those brilliant fillies of a century ago. Though she has since met her match in Soviet Song.
Johnston says that he has received hundreds of letters and e-mails, some from
America, saying please bring her over here.
“It feels a great privilege for the public to latch on to this horse,” he says. “The whole thing amazes me. Of course, she’s very important to all of us involved with her and to the people involved in racing, but it fascinates me that she’s become so important to the public.
“We have had well over 100 letters, some from people saying that Attraction has given them new hope in their lives. It’s amazing how she can affect people in that way.”