08/21/2001 12:00AM

Attard: Those were the days - but these are, too


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Larry Attard will have mixed emotions when he steps up to the podium at the induction ceremonies for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame here Thursday.

The 49-year-old Attard will be justifiably proud of the distinguished 25-year riding career for which he is being honored. But he will always feel a tinge of regret about the premature end to his days in the saddle, brought about by a series of concussions that forced him to give up his chosen profession.

"I miss it a lot," said Attard, who quickly names the date of his last ride: Aug. 28, 1997. "I liked the company of the jockeys, and I liked riding too."

Attard didn't hesitate in citing Bompago's victory here in the 1983 Queen's Plate as the most memorable of his 2,366 career winners.

But there were many other highlights, including his associations with Apelia, Let's Go Blue, and Twist the Snow, all Canadian champions; Kiridashi and Benburb, winners of the Prince of Wales Stakes; and the undefeated 2-year-old sensation Fozzie Bear, who was renamed Bold Revenue.

But once Attard knew his riding days were over he did not spend long dwelling on his former glories, going straight to work for his brother, Sid Attard, on the Woodbine backstretch.

"From the day I stopped riding, I was there all the time," said Larry, whose goal was to join Sid and two other brothers, Joe and Tino, in the training profession.

Early last summer, upon Sid's urging, Larry Attard took the plunge.

"Sid said, 'Get the license,' " he remembered. " 'Buy a couple, claim a couple - have some fun with it.' "

On June 29, 2000, he saddled his first entrant, Faith Alive, and on Sept. 9 he celebrated his first winner, Torys Moment. By season's end he had upped his win total to three, from just 11 starters, adding one second-place finish for total purses of $72,462.

This year he has added four more wins and a total of 10 in-the-money finishes from 18 entrants, good for $137,696.

Attard currently has four horses here at the track, plus another pair on the farm. The star of the stable is Prideofthecoombe, who has won twice and finished in the money six times while banking $83,768 this season. He also won in his first start for Attard here last fall after being claimed for $12,500.

And Attard, who always enjoyed a challenge during his riding days, admits he is finding his new vocation to be testing in a similar fashion.

"It's lots of work, lots of thinking," said Attard, who ultimately would like to have 10 to 12 horses here. "You've got to be careful what you're doing."

Helping Attard run the show here are his wife, Veronica, and groom Larry Dargavel. Terry Johnson handles the exercise riding duties.

Veronica Attard, who admits to having been terrified of the horses when she used to accompany her husband to the barn for the afternoon feeding, swung into action one day when a former employee failed to show. Although she's now been in the barn just three months she seems like an old hand and is actively involved with her husband's fortunes, just as she was during his days as a jockey.