10/30/2008 11:00PM

For Kevin Attard, a year without a champ


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Kevin Attard had a Sovereign Award winner in each of his first two years as private trainer for Knob Hill Stable. Leonnatus Anteas was the champion 2-year-old male in 2006, and Alezzandro picked up the torch last year by edging his stablemate for the 3-year-old male title.

And, while the championship bubble burst this season, Attard still had a pair of stakes winners in Nicki Knew and Bucephalus.

"Heading in, I thought we had some strong possibilities," said Attard, who will turn 33 next month. "But, it was just kind of one of those years."

Siwa, a 4-year-old filly who had won a pair of turf stakes for the barn last year, was injured and has yet to make it back to the races.

Leonnnatus Anteas started just twice, finishing fourth in Grade 2 stakes at Gulfstream and Keeneland before being sidelined by a tendon injury.

Alezzandro has raced six times but has only a second-place finish to show for his efforts and ended a distant last of 10 in his latest appearance here at Woodbine on Oct. 19.

"We're trying to figure him out," aid Attard. "He's been very disappointing. He's worked well, and we've tried different things, but nothing seems to be working."

Bucephalus, a 2-year-old colt, won the 5 1/2-furlong Clarendon here on July 5 but had his campaign cut short after finishing fifth in the Aug. 10 Vandal.

"He had some bone bruising in his ankles, and we had to give him 90 days of rest," said Attard. "I think he has the potential for a bright future."

Nicki Knew, who also showed promise in just two starts last season, has been Attard's steadiest campaigner this year with a record of 2-2-2 and earnings of $288,830 from 8 starts.

The highlight of Nicki Knew's campaign was her win in the $250,000 Bison City, a 1 1/16-mile race here June 29.

Nicki Knew also placed in four other stakes and will be looking to wind up her campaign on a high note here in next Sunday's $150,000 Jammed Lovely, a seven-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds.

"She's a grinder; she's always in the hunt," said Attard. "I think she's going to appreciate going back to seven furlongs; she has two wins at the distance."

Following the Jammed Lovely, Attard will be closing up shop here and heading for the Knob Hill winter base in Ocala, Fla.

And, when Attard returns next year his stable may have a different look.

"Knob Hill has downsized a bit, and I asked if I could take on some more horses," said Attard, who expects to have about 10 runners for his main client, including three yearlings purchased this fall. "They were okay with that."

Richards looks to regroup

It would be hard for any barn to compensate for the absence of a horse like Financingavail-able, who won Sovereign Awards in both the older female and sprint categories last year.

So it should come as no great surprise that Lorne Richards, who trained Financingavailable for his main client K.K. Sangara, has been less than satisfied with his 2008 meeting here at Woodbine.

"People look at the standings and think you've had a pretty good year," said Richards, who has sent out 17 winners from his first 55 starters at the meet. "But, it's been a tough go. We're going to have to regroup."

Richards was hit hard this summer by the deaths of Tiverton and Coosa, both of whom he had claimed at Gulfstream Park last winter.

"Nothing's gone right," said Richards. "When you only have eight or 10 horses, each race means a little bit more."

Richards, who was at Palm Meadows last year, plans to be at Ocala with a half-dozen horses this winter.

In the meantime, Richards will have a couple of shots at garnering his first stakes win of the meeting with Shut It Down headed for next Saturday's Frost King and Stranger Things slated for the Nov. 12 South Ocean.

The $125,000 Frost King is a seven-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-olds while the $125,000 South Ocean is a 1 1/16-mile race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies.

Shut It Down is coming off a fourth-place finish under regular rider Jim McAleney in the Bull Page, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old colts and geldings here Oct. 13.

"Jimmy and I were both in shock," said Richards. "It looked on the turn that it was just going to be a question of how far he'd win by. But when Jimmy asked her, she had nothing left."

Stranger Things finished third last time out in the Victorian Queen, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired 2-year-old fillies here Oct. 1.

"I was a little disappointed," said Richards. "She was bad in the gate. Jimmy figured it cost her a length of two."

Shut It Down and Stranger Things both were purchased in a package deal from Mark Casse, who sold Financingavailable to Sangara and Richards in the summer of 2004.

Financingavailable, who went on to win 10 stakes and more than $1.3 million before being retired last fall, could provide an additional windfall for Richards and Sangara as she is in foal to Smart Strike and slated to sell at Keeneland on Monday.

"I'm hoping maybe we'll get a good buck for her, and we can get some new ones in," said Richards.

Carignan rides first Woodbine winner

Krista Carignan recorded her first Woodbine winner on Thursday when she guided Spunky Hill to a three-quarters of a length victory for trainer Greg De Gannes.

Carignan, 20, rode 39 winners in Alberta before moving her tack here following the conclusion of the Northlands Park meeting.