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Atta Boy Roy falters near finish
It wasn't enough for automatic qualification in the Breeders' Cup, but Roy Schaefer still fulfilled a dream.
The 62-year-old South Kitsap resident owns Atta Boy Roy, who competed in the 74th running of the Longacres Mile on Sunday in Auburn.
Riden by Ricky Frazier, the 4-year-old bay colt finished fifth among a dozen competitors. He led until there about the last 100 feet, when Assessment surged forward to finish in 1 minute, 33.4 seconds. Awesome Gem was the favorite at 2-to-1, while Atta Boy Roy was projected toward the middle at 8-to-1.
Schaefer said he was "a little disappointed" with the outcome, and cited a couple of reasons for it.
He said the horse lost his left shoe at some point during the race and also didn't pace himself well enough. Schaefer said he won $7,500 and is hopeful that Atta Boy Roy, who injured his foot when he lost the shoe, will run in the Sept. 13 six-furlong Chinook Pass Sprint at Emerald Downs.
He's won three of five races this year, including the fastest six furlongs (1:07.4) and then won the 6 1/2 furlongs (1:14.2) Governor's Handicap last month at Emerald Downs. Schaefer said Atta Boy Roy's trainer, Valorie Lund, galloped him two miles a day in preparation for the Longacres Mile. His best performances typically have been in races that are three-quarters of a mile.
"The last two miles races he's run, he fell a little short in the end," Schaefer said. "But it was time to run him in the mile again."
The only other time Atta Boy Roy didn't win a race this year came when he lost the shoe on his front left foot. Schaefer, who owns five other race horses, said Atta Boy Roy had won about $50,000 before the Longacres Mile and $99,000 in his career. He isn't sure how much it costs to maintain the horse, though.
Schaefer bought Atta Boy Roy in 2006 at the Washington Yearling Sale. He initially bid $3,500, but spent $4,500 to win the horse, then named Irish Toast. He said Lund wanted the horse, but didn't know Schaefer and his wife, Ellie, won it until the announcement came.
"She hit me on the shoulder and said, 'Atta Boy Roy,' " he said.
Lund pressed him to change the horse's name, but Schaefer was resistant. He didn't want a horse named after him. It wasn't broached again until the horse returned from training in Eastern Washington. Schaefer finally relented, but told Lund that horse better "really run" if they were going to change his name.
It was the first time the Schaefers and Lund had a horse at Longacres. He was raised on a farm in Montana with several horses and then made friends with horseracing fans when he moved in 1977 to Auburn. They used to regularly attend races at the now-defunct Longacres track in Renton until the Schaefers moved in 1983 when they opened Canopy World in Bremerton.
With the business, Schaefer said he didn't think about it again until he bought a retirement home in Phoenix 10 years ago. Their house was next to a horse racing track.
"When we bought the house, I told my wife I wanted a racehorse," he said.
The couple bought their first horse in April 2002. But the big winning didn't begin until Atta Boy Roy came along.
"It was just a really lucky, fortunate move of events," Schaefer said.
He said Atta Boy Roy hasn't fully matured yet — that should come within the next year — and he "expects two or three more years or racing" out of him.
For now, Schaefer's just happy to have a horse in the Northwest's premier horseracing event.
"It's quite an accomplishment for my trainer to give me a horse to run in the Longacres Mile," he said. "This is the biggest thing west of the Mississippi (River) and north of the Bay Area."