By: Chris Lomon for Woodbine.com
He stood 16.1 hands, a strapping and gallant grey thoroughbred that was fit for a crown 30 years ago.
It was 1989 when With Approval, bred and owned by Kinghaven Farms, and trained by Roger Attfield, made front-page news across the country when he became Canada’s first Triple Crown winner in 26 years.
For Attfield, one of North America’s most accomplished horsemen, the recollection of With Approval powering home to an authoritative score in the Breeders’ Stakes, final jewel in the Triple Crown Series, is as vivid as ever.
“It was a wonderful moment,” said the eight-time Plate winner. “But it really doesn’t seem that long ago that we stood there watching him win it.”
While his Breeders’ triumph was undoubtedly impressive, With Approval had to go to great lengths, literally, to get the chance to put his name in the annals of Canadian racing history.
In the Queen’s Plate, With Approval was bumped, shuffled back by 15 lengths and locked-in on the rail. Jockey Don Seymour finally found a seam and got his charge in the clear at the top of the stretch, with the duo going on to win by a scant nose.
In the Prince of Wales, second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown Series, the margin of victory was a head.
A 7 1/2-length romp in the Breeders’, which earned his connections a $1 million bonus, was a welcome relief for Attfield and co.
“It was a big sweat for the first one,” he said of the Plate triumph. “The second one (Prince of Wales) not so much, but I knew it was close. That first one could have gone either way. I couldn’t call it, for sure. I felt he was capable of winning the Triple Crown, but I just needed to get him through those two dirt races. The last one I went into with extreme confidence.”
One year later, With Approval, Canada’s Horse of the Year and Champion Three-Year-Old Male in 1989, managed to eclipse his three-year-old season heroics.
As a four-year-old, the son of Caro-Passing Mood excelled on the Belmont turf course, setting the world record for 1 3/8 miles in capturing the Bowling Green Handicap. He took the Tidal Handicap at Belmont in track-record time and was third by less than two lengths at Belmont in the Turf Classic. In the Breeders’ Cup Turf, he narrowly lost to England’s In The Wings.
“He was a pleasure to have,” praised Attfield. “The odd time, we’ll watch his races and recall all those moments. It’s nice to remember how great he was.”
There is, however, one regret.
“I remember distinctly that he was going to go to the Japan Cup,” recalled Attfield, a member of both the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. “I was looking forward to that immensely because I thought he was going to run a big race. I had been there before with others that didn’t have as good as he did. The morning he was going to fly out – he was at the Belmont then – I picked up a little inflammation in his suspensory. It was obvious that he wouldn’t be able to run his best race in Japan, and it would have been a long way to go to scratch him. That was a very sad day for me because he was sitting on such a great race. But he gave me so much that I can’t really complain. He was a joy on and off the track.”
With Approval retired with a then Canadian earnings record of $2.8 million from 23 starts (13-5-1). He was also the first of three Canadian Triple Crown winners trained by Attfield, who also achieved the feat with Izvestia (1990) and Peteski (1993).
As a sire, With Approval produced multiple stakes winners, with his first crop including 1994 Canadian Champion Two-Year-Old Male, Talkin Man.
Inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1993, With Approval died June 21, 2010.
What comes to mind first when Attfield thinks of his champion grey?
“He always wanted to stop and stand and stare at things. He was intelligent in that way, he wanted to take in everything that he could in the morning. Consequently, he inherited the name ‘Snoopy.’ And he stayed ‘Snoopy’ right the way through. That’s who he was and who he’ll always be to us.”