08/31/2005 11:00PM

Apple falls not far from the tree


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Grant Forster has been training horses for only three years, but with three straight wins in the Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks, he already is one up on his father, Dave Forster.

Grant has a long way to go to match his father's record with females at Hastings, though.

The elder Forster is in the local Hall of Fame, and his work with fillies and mares has a lot to do with him being a member. Grant Forster will try to emulate his dad when he saddles A Classic Life in the Grade 3 $150,000 B.C. Breeders' Cup Oaks on Sunday.

Considering her six-length win in the Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks Aug. 20, A Classic Life figures to be the favorite Sunday.

"I wasn't sure if I wanted to run her back in two weeks," said Grant Forster. "But she came out of her race in great shape and she seems to be right on top of her game, so we'll give it a shot."

It will be a homecoming for Forster. He grew up in British Columbia and one of his first jobs at the track was in the maintenance department at Hastings. He worked there for six years before enrolling in the racetrack management program at the University of Arizona. After graduation, he landed a job as a media-relations assistant at Emerald Downs. He held that position for two years before he changed directions and went to work for his father as a groom. At the time, the elder Forster had a string of horses at Emerald Downs as well as at Hastings.

"It's not that I didn't like the work I was doing at Emerald," said Grant Forster. "It's just that I knew that I loved working with horses and so I made the switch."

His parents weren't exactly encouraging at the time. But after they received a heartfelt letter from Grant explaining why he wanted to train horses, his father offered him a job.

"He had spent all that energy on getting an education and we were hoping he would go into racetrack management," said Grant's mother, Teri. But he wrote us a beautiful seven-page letter explaining why he wanted to train horses. I still have the letter at home."

Forster worked as a groom for two years before getting his license as an assistant trainer. He credits his father for the success he has had so far.

"I know and certainly appreciate that because of him I was able to begin my career with a pretty nice string of horses," Grant said. "Not everyone gets handed the kind of horses I was given."

He is making the most of the opportunity, though it will be hard for him to top his accomplishments of two weeks ago when he won both the Longacres Mile and the Oaks.

"That was pretty exciting," he said. "But you have to realize that there are great ups and downs in this business. You certainly have to appreciate your successes, but you also have to be prepared for when things go the other way."

One thing Forster is prepared to do is travel. He has nine horses in training at Arlington Park as well as the 31 he has stabled at Emerald Downs.

"When I ran a horse at Woodbine a few weeks ago it was the 13th state or province where I've been licensed," he said. "I don't mind shipping a horse to a different track if there's a good spot for them to run in."

While Forster learned the hands-on part of the job from his father, he also credits his time at the University of Arizona for helping him become as successful as he is.

"It's such a great program, and having the year-end racing symposium there every year was a big part of what made it so great," he said. "You learned a lot from just hanging around all of the leaders in the industry."

Forster was also thankful for the scholarship he received from the British Columbia Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association when he went to the University of Arizona. He received a scholarship from Emerald Downs as well. This year, the HBPA of B.C. handed out roughly 30 scholarships.

"I think it's great that there's support in our industry for people that want to receive an education," he said. "I know I learned a lot from going to school."

Forster also said that if A Classic Life ran well in the Oaks, it's possible that she would stay to run in the $150,000 Ballerina Breeders' Cup. If she does stay, she'll be running against a formidable Dave Forster-trained entry that could possibly consist of four horses.