11/17/2009 1:00AM

Attard tree's latest branch blooms


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Paul Attard, who celebrated his 28th birthday earlier this month, is the youngest of six trainers here sharing that family surname. But while his father, Sid, and cousins Steve and Kevin have found themselves in the spotlight on more than one occasion this season, Paul Attard quietly has put together his best campaign since he took out his trainer's license here in 2002.

"It's been a very good year," said the soft-spoken Attard, who certainly is not one to beat his own drum. "I've been very lucky. I have good owners, I have good help, and the condition book's been good to us."

Heading into the final three weeks of the meeting, Attard had won with 19 of 96 starters here and was 2 for 5 at Fort Erie.

Those numbers represent a significant rebound for Attard, who won with 10 of 118 starters last year after saddling 19 winners in 2006 and 18 the following season.

"Last spring, we had a lot of horses get injured," said Attard. "This year we had minimal injuries, and slightly better stock."

The fact that Attard has put together his solid campaign with a blue-collar stable is no surprise considering his parentage.

Sid Attard, perennially among the leading trainers here, has campaigned more than his share of stakes horses in recent years but earned his spurs in the claiming game.

"I grew up on the racetrack," said Paul Attard. "I was walking hots for my father on the weekend, when I was 8 or 9 years old."

Attard always had sights set on being a trainer, but his mother, Janice, urged him to first pursue a post-secondary education, and he enrolled in a restaurant and hotel management program at nearby Humber College.

"I'm glad I got the education and experience," said Attard. "But, I still wanted to train horses. There's a lot of responsibility, but a lot of freedom."

Success certainly has helped Attard enjoy his profession more than ever this year.

His most productive performer on the earnings front has been Clear Lake.

An Ontario-sired 3-year-old filly owned by Rob Smithen, Clear Lake banked $156,180 via three wins and a pair of seconds from seven starts before being put away for the season.

"She did a lot, and she had a nice year," said Attard. "If she stays sound, I think she could become one of the Ontario-sired stakes fillies next season."

Attard's only in-the-money stakes finish from just three attempts this season came with River Heights, a

6-year-old gelding who ended third last time out in the Labeeb over one mile on turf.

River Heights, who has earned $278,156 via a record of 2-8-10 from 37 career starts, had come into the Labeeb off a fifth-place finish against open $40,000 claimers and is back in for that price but with fellow nonwinners of three here Thursday.

"He ran a big race last time," said Attard. "He's really a turf horse, but I'll give him one more shot on Polytrack. He's a very talented horse, but he doesn't always give you 100 percent."

Attard's stable leader in races won has been La Gran Leslie, who has scored four times and should have an opportunity to add to that total before meet's end.

A 5-year-old mare owned by Domenic Barbuto, La Gran Leslie has won three times for claiming prices ranging from $12,500 to $25,000 and also scored in a $12,500 starter allowance.

"Domenic is a great owner," said Attard. "He just told me to treat her like she was my own horse, run her wherever I wanted and let him know when she was in the entries."

Santina d'Or, Private Meeting, Sweet Therapy, and Whos Hot Now all have scored twice for the Attard stable this season.

The most talented of that group is Santina d'Or, but that 5-year-old mare made it to the post just three times this season.

After clearing her first two allowance conditions in Ontario-sired company, Santina d'Or was scratched from a scheduled engagement in the Oct. 7 Classy 'n Smart Stakes.

"She had a minor injury," said Attard, who trains Santina d'Or for York Tech Racing Stable and Teresa Di Paola. "I think she'll be back next year."

Private Meeting, a 3-year-old colt who races for John and Jessica Pastorek, won her maiden and a first-level allowance in restricted company this spring but has been blanked in six subsequent outings.

Attard, however, was encouraged after watching Private Meeting finish fifth in a field of six but just 2 1/4 lengths behind the winner in his first two-turn try of the season here Nov. 11.

"He ran a funny race," said Attard. "He was second all the way around, dropped back to last, and then came with a big run down the lane.

"He might have needed that race. I'll try him at the distance once more."

Sweet Therapy and Whos Hot Now both won here last week and could see action again before they turn out the Thoroughbred lights following the Dec. 6 program.

Mare brings $200,000

Dance to My Tune, an Ontario-bred 5-year-old mare, sold for $200,000 last Friday as part of the Overbrook Farm dispersal at Keeneland's November breeding stock sale.

Originally trained by Dave Cotey, Dance to My Tune won the 1 1/16-mile La Lorgnette and the seven-furlong Jammed Lovely here at 3 and was a finalist in the Sovereign Award balloting for her division.

Sold privately to Overbrook last fall and turned over to trainer Mark Casse, Dance to My Tune was winless in six starts this year but ran well to be third in the Zadracarta over six furlongs on turf.