10/18/2004 11:00PM

Blue-collar 'Lenny' goes black tie

Michael Burns Photo
Mubtaker gets his first feel for the Woodbine turf course Tuesday by cantering with Angela McCleary aboard.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Scan down the list of trainers with candidates for Sunday's Canadian International and you will see a miniature "Who's Who" of the profession.

From overseas, Aidan O'Brien and Saaed bin Suroor. From the United States, Bob Baffert and Bobby Frankel. From Canada, Mark Frostad.

At the other end of the spectrum there is the Fort Erie-based owner-trainer Richard Jukosky, who is leaning in favor of starting Lenny the Lender in the Grade 1, $1.5 million turf feature for 3-year-olds and upward.

The 65-year-old Jukosky, a brother of Woodbine-based trainer Ann Kuti, is a longtime owner who took out his trainer's license in 1993 and has increased his involvement since he returned from a contract stint in Saudi Arabia and took early retirement from Bell Canada in 1993.

While the number of horses he has owned or trained has added up through the decades, Jukosky acknowledges that Lenny the Lender is "by far the best" he has had.

"The horse has done everything I can possible ask," said Jukosky. "I actually feel that if I put him in there, he's going to run good."

Jukosky lives with his wife, Carol, in Ridgeway, Ontario, which is within hailing distance of Fort Erie.

That racetrack is where he claimed Lenny the Lender for $7,500 on Oct. 27, 2001. Now 8 years old, Lenny the Lender has started 27 times for Jukosky, compiling a record of 4-7-0 while earning $308,940.

Lenny the Lender's last win came in a third-level allowance here almost two years ago, but he has finished a close second in each of the last two editions of the Grade 2 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8-mile turf handicap which is the final local prep for the International.

Jukosky also feels that Lenny the Lender was short-changed in his first crack at the Sky Classic, where he was beaten a nose by Bowman Mill in a controversial finish.

The stewards left up Bowman Mill's number there, ruling that Lenny the Lender had been interfered with after the finish.

Jukosky appealed the decision but the Ontario Racing Commission upheld the stewards' decision.

"I know we were the better horse that day," said Jukosky. "That should have been our race."

That's past, however, and Lenny the Lender's present is what concerns Jukosky.

Since the end of this year's Fort Erie meeting, on Sept. 6, Lenny the Lender has been based on the farm of Jukosky's neighbor and fellow trainer Fred Herdy.

Lenny the Lender's exercises have come over the half-mile track there, with former jockey-exercise rider Maree Ramirez his usual partner.

"It's not ideal," admitted Jukosky, "but he really enjoys it out there. He handles it quite well."

Lenny the Lender has shipped here for his last three starts, including the Oct. 2 Sky Classic, where he was beaten a neck by International-bound Colorful Judgement.

"That was the first time this year he had a track that suited him," said Jukosky. "It had a little give to it.

"He gets jarred up every time he runs on firm turf. Give him a softer track and it's a night-and-day difference."

Jukosky shipped Lenny the Lender to Woodbine last Sunday for his principal International prep, and watched the gelding drill a smart five furlongs in 59.60 seconds on the turf training track with regular rider Chantal Sutherland in the irons.

"I think he's training stronger than last year," said Jukosky. "If there's lots of speed he can just plod along at the back, then in the last three furlongs he makes his run."

Vella alters his operation

Danny Vella, who has been Team Stronach's main trainer since returning to Woodbine two years ago, is going public next year.

Vella said he will still train some horses for Stronach but was not prepared to take on a prospective new role for him, which would have involved travel and possibly seasonal relocation.

"I'm looking just to slow down a little bit," said Vella. "Basically I'll work here in Toronto and at Frank's farm in Florida during the winter."

Vella had spent five years based at Stronach's Adena Springs South before returning to Woodbine.

"I love training in Toronto; I think it's the best place in the world to train horses," said Vella, who had trained for Knob Hill Stable before hooking up with Stronach at the end of 1991.

Vella, 48, was the Sovereign Award-winning trainer in 1994 and 1995 and has conditioned more than 100 stakes winners during his career.

International candidates

Grade 1; $1.5 million; 1 1/2 miles, turf

Brian BoruA. O'BrienJ. Spencer
Burst of FireM. FrostadS. Callaghan
Colorful JudgementM. FrostadT. Kabel
EcomiumJ. NosedaM. Kinane
King's DramaR. FrankelJ. Velasquez
Lenny the LenderR. JukoskyC. Sutherland
MubtakerM. TregoningR. Hills
SabiangoT. YakteenB. Blanc
Senor SwingerB. BaffertE. Prado
SimonasA. Wohler-
Strut the StageM. FrostadT. Kabel
SulamaniS. bin SuroorF. Dettori