The Attraction never wanes a decade on
"SHE is definitely the classiest horse I have trained," opined Mark Johnston after his star filly Attraction extended her winning sequence to eight when taking the Group 1 Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot ten years ago this week.
In her three short years on the track, she dominated the filly's landscape to such an extent that, in 15 starts, she won ten races and collected nearly £900,000 in prize money.
Born with crooked forelegs, that gave her an ugly sideways gait - described by Marcus Armytage in the Daily Telegraph as like a "demented haymaker wielding a scythe" - Middleham-based Johnston can't have felt that lucky when Attraction was originally sent to her by the Duke of Roxburghe.
"She was a complete one-off," admits Johnston's assistant Jock Bennett. "There were three horses in John Hills' yard and the Duke of Roxburghe said he could keep two but he must send one to Mark Johnston.
"Because of her conformation, he picked Attraction to send to us. I am sure he rued the day, but I think if Mark had been in the same position, he would have done the same."
But if she looked as though "God had taken a day off when he created her", as Hills would later state, the handler would come to heartily regret missing out on the chance to train her.
On the track and the gallops, she was dynamite. Not that everyone was so convinced at first, however.
Bennett added: "Right from day one, from the first time we ever galloped her, I remember it was on the Low Moor and Bobby Elliott rode her and he said 'This is very sharp. This will win first time out.'
He said: "I am not sure she will win again. Bobby is usually a very good judge and she did win first time out so I will give him his due.
"Everything she ever did on the gallops - I can't remember her ever being beaten on there. As she turned out to be a very highly rated filly, she probably was better than everything she galloped with."
Attraction showed her class the first time she ever saw a racecourse - smashing Avid Spell by five lengths in a Median Auction Stakes at Nottingham.
From there, under her regular jockey Kevin Darley, she was virtually unstoppable - the Cherry Hinton at Newmarket in the summer of 2003 falling her way before she defied leg injuries and a broken pedal bone to bounce back and claim the English and Irish 1,000 Guineas.
When Majestic Desert was dispatched in a royal Coronation, the former England striker Mick Channon said of the conqueror: "You probably won't see another horse like her in your lifetime."
Of course defeats followed, to the likes of Soviet Song in the Falmouth Stakes and the Matron Stakes as the injuries would start to take their toll. But, in her prime, she was a gutsy heroine and it is why she is remembered so fondly at Park Farm and across the whole of Middleham a decade on.
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