TORONTO, November 11, 2021 – Eight hopefuls, including multiple graded stakes winner Special Forces, reigning Canadian Horse of the Year Mighty Heart, and 2019 Belmont Stakes champ Sir Winston, are set to contest the Grade 2 $175,000 Autumn Stakes, Sunday at Woodbine.
A six-year-old son of Candy Ride (ARG) trained by Kevin Attard, who co-owns with Soli Mehta, Special Forces will chase his second Autumn score, having won the 1 1/16-mile Tapeta event for three-year-olds and upward two years ago.
Sporting a record of 6-6-2 from 20 starts, the chestnut, bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall and Carrie and Craig Brogden, has finished in the top three in 12 straight starts and heads into Sunday’s race off a win in the Grade 3 Durham Cup on October 10.
Sent off at 6-1, the gelding, under Justin Stein, rallied strongly down the lane to secure a half-length victory in the 1 1/16-mile race stopping the clock in 1:42.36. Sir Winston was second, Halo Again finished third and Mighty Heart was fourth. All four are set to square off in the Autumn.
Claimed by Attard for $40,000 just over three years ago, the Durham Cup was the first trip to the winner’s circle for Special Forces since taking the 2019 Autumn.
“I think he’s always been a good horse,” said Attard. “Up until he got injured he was running against the best older horses on the grounds at Woodbine and was competing right with them. Any time you have to stop a horse for an extended period of time you always wonder, ‘Have they lost a step?’ or consider what level they’ll be able to come back at. I think he’s obviously put that to rest after his last race.”
Attard, three wins shy of 570 for his career, continues to be impressed by his consistent and resilient performer.
“Before we ran him the first time this year, I knew he was good and back to himself. I was eagerly awaiting him getting back to the races. There aren’t many times you come back and hook a Belmont winner (Sir Winston, on August 19). We ran a good second. I was happy with the race that my horse ran.”
Special Forces made his debut on May 25, 2017, at Churchill, finishing sixth. He broke his maiden in his seventh start on August 5, 2018 in a maiden optional claiming race at Woodbine.
“He just has a great turn of foot,” raved Attard. “He really closes hard down the lane. He’s an exciting horse to watch and a horse we claimed which makes it even more special just to see the improvement in him. He likes to sit at the back of the pack and come with a big run. Those ones are always exciting to watch.”
Are You Kidding Me won consecutive (2015-16) editions of the Autumn. Starting in 1920, Kentucky Derby champion and U.S. Horse Racing Hall of Fame inductee, Exterminator, won the race three straight years.
The Autumn goes as race eight. First post for the 11-race card is 12:55 p.m. Fans can watch and wager on all the action through HPIbet.com and the Dark Horse Bets app.
$175,000 AUTUMN STAKES
Post – Horse – Jockey – Trainer
1 – Special Forces – Justin Stein – Kevin Attard
2 – Vanzzy – Rafael Hernandez – Michael Pino
3 – Primo Touch (S) – Eswan Flores – Harold Ladouceur
4 – Sir Winston – Antonio Gallardo – Mark Casse
5 – Faraway Kitten – Luis Contreras – Denyse McClachrie
6 – Halo Again – Shaun Bridgmohan – Steve Asmussen
7 – Embolden – Mauricio Malvaez – Sandra Dominguez
8 – Mighty Heart – Patrick Husbands – Josie Carroll
Woodbine Communications / @WoodbineComms on Twitter