08/24/2012 12:08PM

Fort Erie: Albu barn enjoying a solid season

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – The Fort Erie backstretch consists of a number of small- to medium-sized outfits, one of which is headed by trainer Ken Albu, age 47, who has 14 horses in his barn.

Albu is a hands-on trainer and he, together with his wife Audrey and groom Todd Brown, handle every aspect of the training program.

“You have to economize and work as a team,” said Albu, “and the three of us entertain a busy schedule throughout the season, each doing his or her part to ensure success.”

Success for any trainer is usually measured by his or her ratio of winners to starters. Albu is pleased with the his current season.

“We had our 11th win of the year last week from 64 runners to post,” he said, “and our aim is to continue to build on those good results as the season works towards its final two months.”

Albu began his career with Thoroughbreds as a teenager at the Fort and spent his first summer on the backstretch walking hots for trainer John Cirillo.

“I really enjoyed it and decided to take on a full-time job as a hotwalker, groom and anything else that the boss needed done,” said Albu.

“My boss that second-year was C.R. [Joe] Johnston and he provided me with the sound essentials that a horsemen needs in the care and conditioning of a Thoroughbred.”

Moving from the Fort to Woodbine racetrack in Toronto, Albu connected with one of the perennial top trainers at that track, Sid Attard.

“I worked for Sid for 22 years and gained knowledge and experience from a true horseman,” said Albu.

“Over the years, we worked with some of the top horses at the track, so many in fact that is hard to pinpoint the best of a very talented group.”

During his time with Attard, Albu noted that in the winters he would go south and work with Danny Vella in Florida.

“Danny is a great teacher,” said Albu, “and over the years those months with him certainly helped build my education on the management and care of a Thoroughbred operation.”

Eventually, time brought about marriage to Audrey and in 1999 their daughter Haley arrived.

“My experience as an assistant trainer with Sid Attard was invaluable, but I eventually felt it was time to branch out on my own,” said Albu. “Audrey and I decided that it was time to try and run our own operation. We decided on Fort Erie and also in mind was the small-town atmosphere that the Fort would offer for our daughter Haley.”

It is often difficult for a new trainer on the block to obtain horses and owners but Albu’s mentor, Sid Attard, helped provide him with six runners and in June 2001 the Albu barn was established.

“We had a good first year,” said Albu, “winning six races from 53 starters and our in-the-money percentage was just under 50 percent.”

The barn over the years usually starts under 100 runners and its best year to date was in 2004 when it won 14 of 92. On average over the years, the barn delivers around 11 percent from winners/starters and this season’s current mark of 17 percent will boost that percentage.

“Things couldn’t be better right now,” said Albu.

“My co-owner on a number of horses is Jim Pearson, and the two of us work together to place our entries in the right spot. We usually enter late after deciding, and it has worked out well.”

Albu’s future plans, like many on the backside, are dependent on what the future has to offer for this border oval.

“I love this track and the town,” said Albu, “and would love to see it open for the 2013 season.”