Merveilleux translated into French means wonderful.
And that’s how Woodbine trainer Kevin Attard was feeling on Monday morning, the day after his three-year-old filly Merveilleux captured the $250,000 Wonder Where Stakes, the third leg of the Triple Tiara. And the daughter of Paynter did so emphatically for owners Al and Bill Ulwelling, winning by three-lengths over a field that included Woodbine Oaks champion Curlin’s Voyage.
Attard had big expectations for Merveilleux coming into the 2020 season, thinking that a Woodbine Oaks, or even a Queen’s Plate, might be within her reach. But a number of factors, mostly bad racing luck, hounded her from the beginning. Her score in the Wonder Where, however, proved beyond a doubt that she is a classy filly. Merveilleux now sports a career record 3-3-1 from 10 starts with earnings climbing over $550,000. Attard said if Merveilleux comes out of the Wonder Where sound, he’s thinking the $150,000 Damsel Stakes for Ontario-bred three-year-old fillies on Nov.21 at Woodbine may be her next contest.
“Obviously we want to give her the best shot of performing her best and (the decision) is going to come down to trying to see who’s running where,” he said. “We’ve got a decent enough idea, but when we watch the pre-entries come out it’s going to be a little more clear in that sense. The good thing about my filly is, she’s very versatile. She’s obviously shown that she can run a mile, she’s shown she can run a 1 mile and 1/4 and we’re lucky enough that the Filly& Mile Turf is 1 3/16ths. And that’s within her wheelhouse – a little shorter of the 1 1/4 distance, which I like. But at the same token, she ran such a big race in the Woodbine Ricoh Mile, then you have to consider running her against the boys again one more time. It’s a good problem to have.”
There have been a number of tremendous angles at Woodbine Racetrack this season, starting with Mighty Heart, the one-eyed colt who captured both the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales Stakes. But Starship Jubilee is a incredible story that just keeps on giving. Claimed by Attard’s father Tino for $16,000 as a four-year-old three years ago, Starship Jubilee has gone on to win 19 races – including 12 stakes scores (and two Grade 1 victories – the E.P. Taylor stakes in 2019 and the Ricoh Woodbine Mile on Sept.19). In all, the bay has posted earnings of over $2 million. Starship Jubilee was named the 2019 Canadian Horse of the Year. And now there’s a $2 million Breeders’ Cup race is on her horizon.
“She won a Grade 1 going a mile and a quarter and now’s she’s won a Grade 1 going a mile. You don’t see too many horses that can do that. And the fact that she’s done both just shows you what quality of a horse she is,” said Attard. “She was kind of disrespected a bit I thought in the Woodbine Mile (going off at 5-1), but she just keeps proving people wrong, and proving how good she really is.
Wherever she shows up, she deserves a little bit of respect.”
What’s also intriguing about Starship Jubilee is that she is hitting her stride an age when many thoroughbreds have already retired.
“You don’t really expect them to be around at seven,” said Attard. “It’s not really the normal that we see here in racing. But the fact is, she’s arguably at her best now. She enjoys what she’s doing. She’s 4-for-5 this year. Every time you think the chapter’s done and the book might be ready to close, she’s on to the next chapter. So I’m enjoying the ride and I’m going to keep going with it.”
“Obviously we’ve been waiting for that all year from her,” said Attard of the Wonder Where performance. “It was definitely nice to see. I wasn’t expecting it to be that emphatic, that’s for sure. She’s been a filly that’s never won that emphatically. She’s reluctant to kind of leave (the pack). She was almost like a herd horse in that sense. And she kind of always had a dog fight to the wire and was missing by heads and noses. She was always kind of waiting on horses.”
So while Attard was still somewhat basking in Merveilleux’s marvelous trip from Sunday, his focus on Monday quickly turned to his superstar mare, Starship Jubilee. Attard told the Toronto Sun that the daughter of Indy Wind is looking good ahead of the Breeders’ Cup (the world championship of thoroughbred horse racing) on Nov.7 at Keeneland. The only question is, which race does he plan on entering her in?
“Nothing’s finalized yet. We pre-entered her this morning, so she’s going to be pre-entered in both the Mile (FanDuel Mile presented by PDJF) and the (Maker’s Mark) Filly and Mare Turf. We’ll see how things kind of unfold. We’re learning towards the Filly and Mare Turf, but that could change,” he said.
“Right now, just trying to get her the best prepared as I can,” Attard continued. “She had a great work yesterday with Justin Stein (Woodbine’s leading jockey) up and I was very pleased. She came up in good shape. We’re excited and looking forward to Nov.7.”
Both the Mile and Filly&Mare Turf are $2 million races.