As he has done countless times at his home track, Calvin Borel guided his mount to an early lead and never looked back. This time, Borel steered 10-1 chance Atta Boy Roy to a wire-to-wire score in the $290,000 Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) May 1 in the slop.
Speed had not held at soggy Churchill Downs in previous races, but Atta Boy Roy changed that, hugging the rail under Borel to record the biggest win of his career. The 5-year-old ridgling notched his first graded stakes by a half-length while completing seven furlongs 1:22.52. He is trained by Valorie Lund, who won her first graded stakes in 27 years.
“I worked this horse twice and I thought he was good and impressive when I worked him," Borel said. "He worked :46 and change (for four furlongs). He’s a nice horse. He might look a little outclassed with these kind of horses, but the work was unbelievable.
Entering off an optional claiming win at Turf Paradise March 30, Atta Boy Roy broke from post 9 and sped through splits of :22.23, :44.73, and 1:09.16 while Wall Street Wonder, last year’s winner Accredit, Country Day, and Kensei chased the leader. The son of Tribunal hit the eighth-pole with a three-length advantage after repelling bids in upper stretch from Kensei and favored Musket Man. Atta Boy Roy then held off a late charge by Warrior's Reward, who was coming hard under Julien Leparoux but ran out of time.
Warrior’s Reward was 2 3/4 lengths in front of third-place Musket Man and Ramon Dominguez, the 2-1 favorite in the field of 12.
Bred in Washington by Patricia J. Murphy and Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Pabst, Atta Boy Roy was a $4,500 purchase at the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association 2006 summer yearling sale. Out of the Synastry mare Irish Toast, he is owned by Roy Schaefer, who races his horses under the name of R.E.V. Racing.
"This horse, I picked out as a yearling," Lund said. "I fell in love with him the minute I saw him. We thought he’d sell high and he didn’t sell at all. We stole him for $4,500. I’ve galloped him since he was 2 years old.
“He’s just come along," Lund, said. "We’ve been patient; he’s had trouble with quarter cracks. I really think that this is his year. He’s a better 5-year-old than he was last year. He’s a really outstanding horse to be around. Very calm."
Lund, who previously trained in Washington and is now based in Phoenix, said Borel came on the recommendation of Churchill racing secretary Ben Huffman.
“I said, ‘I need a patient rider, a guy who rides with a nice long hold and isn’t going to rough up his horse.’ He said, ‘I will suggest Calvin Borel.’ I said' he might be a little flamboyant for me'. He said, `No, he’s who you want.’
Atta Boy Roy won four of seven races in 2009, including the restricted Chinook Pass Sprint and the Governor’s Handicap, both at Emerald Downs. The bay horse improved to 9-4-0 from 18 starts and the winning share of $167,214 boosted his earnings to $312,999.
The winner returned $22.20, $9.20, and $4.80. Warrior’s Reward returned $5 and $3.40 and Musket Man paid $3 to show. The exacta (9-7) paid $152 and the trifecta (9-7-12) was worth $500.20.