07/17/2008 11:00PM

Canada: Stavro family keeps Knob Hill in the game

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Like many other top Canadian stables that have undergone dramatic changes, the Knob Hill Stable continues on.

Steve Stavro, the master of Knob Hill, which gave Canadian racing such stars as Granacus, Benburb, Apelia, and Thornfield, died in April 2006 leaving his racehorses to his widow, Sally, and a very large family of children and grandchildren.

One grandson, Blake Stavro-Pearce, 21, is becoming immersed in the business, more so than many other family members, and currently assists manager Howard Wood with the running of the racing and breeding operations.

“At the start I went to the races just a couple of years ago,” said Stavro-Pearce. “When my grandfather passed away, there were a few grandchildren who had to help out with office business for the stable and I’m the only one who stuck with it.”

The Stavro family has been on a roll in recent weeks with stakes wins by Nicki Knew, the 3-year-old Tethra filly who won the Bison City Stakes, the second jewel of the triple tiara, and Bucephalus, a promising 2-year-old that won the Clarendon Stakes in his second start.

Last weekend the barn won the Ernie Samuel Stakes at Fort Erie with Klissura as well as several other races with allowance and claiming horses.

Sally Stavro has kept the Knob Hill Stable at a “manageable capacity,” and the farm currently has six broodmares that are all in foal and residing at Glenn Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Aurora, Ontario.

There are five foals of this year, four yearlings, and two juveniles, plus a handful of older runners, including champions Alezzandro and Leonnatus Anteas in the Knob Hill fold.

“Our year started off a bit slow but it’s really picked up now,” said Stavro-Pearce, who works in the Knob Hill offices in downtown Toronto alongside Wood.

Among his duties is to discuss with stable trainer Kevin Attard the progress of each racehorse.

“My grandmother decides on the matings for each mare with some advice from Howard and Glenn,” said Stavro-Pearce. “We plan to go to the yearling sale at Woodbine in the fall and maybe do some buying.”

The Stavro family will also sell three yearlings at the September Canadian-bred sale and keep one, an Afleet Alex filly out of stakes winner Nymphenburg.

Nicki Knew is a daughter of the mare Panteccaria, who is by Knob Hill’s fleet stakes winner San Romano and a half-sister to Thornfield, the 1991 Canadian Horse of the Year.

Panteccaria is in foal to Shakespeare.

The champion Chopinina, by Lear Fan, is the dam of a 2-year-old by Theatrical named Merkabah, and she is in foal to Giant’s Causeway.

The Stavro family also balances its homebred operation with a few auction purchases.

Leonnatus Anteas, a son of Stormy Atlantic, was a yearling purchase for $62,000 from Keeneland September. Leonnatus Anteas was champion 2-year-old in 2006.

Bucephalus, by Cape Canaveral, was bought for $76,168 (U.S.) at auction last year from breeders Gord and Elizabeth Lickrish.

“I am getting more interested in pedigrees and breeding,” said Stavro-Pearce. “This is not a game where you can learn everything in just a couple of weeks, but I really enjoy it.”

So, the more things change, the more they stay the same, and fans can expect to see the Knob Hill colors continue to fly in the winner’s circle for years to come.