06/07/2007 11:00PM

MacPherson turns things around


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - At this time last season, trainer Craig MacPherson had started

17 horses and hadn't won a race.

It got worse before it got better. He went a few more weeks before he saddled his first winner of the year, and heading into July he had just a single winner from his first 36 starters at the Hastings meet.

Compare that with his impressive statistics for the current meet. MacPherson has won 8 races from 29 starts, and along with Troy Taylor is the second leading trainer behind Toni Cloutier, who has 11 wins.

MacPherson never got down on himself in 2006, though, and finished the year on a high note, winning

20 races and finishing seventh in the trainer standings.

"It's been a lot more fun this spring," he said. "We're having a good meet and it's a heck of a lot more fun winning races than going through what we went through last year. I just think it has a lot to do with the kind of horses we have this year. We have a lot of 3-year-olds with conditions and it's not that hard finding the right kind of races for them."

MacPherson, 49, has been involved with horse racing his whole life. His grandfather Angus MacPherson was a prominent trainer in British Columbia for more than 30 years and was inducted into the B.C. Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 1990. His father, Alastair MacPherson, bred horses, and was the president of the B.C. division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

"As long as I can remember I've been around horse racing," he said. "My aunts, uncles, everyone in the family really liked the racing. It became a passion of mine, and I found my way down here and I've stuck with it."

MacPherson took out his training license in 1980 and claimed his first horse in 1981. He and his wife, Karen, worked alone with their small stable.

"We never had very many horses and so it was just the two of us," said MacPherson. "Most of the horses we trained were owned by their breeders. You know, good people with one or two horses. It might have taken us until September to get to our 30th start. In terms of having a large number of horses, though, this is the best start we've ever gotten off to."

MacPherson said he thinks he would be doing even better if Karen were able to work with him full time.

"She hurt her back and she's just not physically able to do the work," he said. "She's definitely missed."

MacPherson has mostly claiming horses in his stable but with the success he has had in the past few years, it wouldn't be surprising if he started attracting clients with proven stakes horses.

"You're always hoping that's the case," he said. "But, I've got a few horses with some potential now."

One of the horses MacPherson said he thinks could turn into a good one is And All That Jazz, who figures to be one of the favorites in the fourth race Sunday. A 3-year-old, And All That Jazz started twice last year for trainer Robert Rohman, finishing fourth both times. He took a big step forward in his first start for MacPherson, finishing second to Beckenbauer in a maiden special weight race May 21.

"He showed us in the mornings that he was a competitor, so we weren't surprised he ran so well in his first start for us," said MacPherson. "I don't know if he's good enough to be a stakes horse but he has some talent and he's got the heart for it."

MacPherson clearly has the heart for his job, and if he continues on this hot streak that started last summer, he could contend for leading training honors at the meet.

Californiatruegrit tries longer

Californiatruegrit turned in one of the most impressive performances by a 3-year-old at the meet when he came from just off the pace to beat older first-level allowance horses going 6 1/2 furlongs May 26. He will be stretching out for the first time in the 10th race Sunday.

Trained by Terry Clyde, Californiatruegrit started twice last year. He showed good speed but faded badly to finish last when he debuted in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race Oct. 29. In his next start, he came back and cruised to a 2 1/4-length win going 3 1/2 furlongs Nov. 11.

Clyde's assistant trainer, Mike Anderson, said he would have liked to have more than one sprint into him before sending California-truegrit around three turns for the first time.

"What are you going to do?" he said. "The race came up and he's doing well so we might as well run him. He's by In Excess and he certainly acts like he'll go long."

Californiatruegrit was bought by Doug Clyde, Terry Clyde's father, for $10,000 at the Barretts January mixed sale last year for $10,000. That's a very good price for a son of the very popular stallion In Excess. After Californiatruegrit's powerful performance in his last race, he was obviously a bargain at the price.

"I'm not sure why he went so cheaply," said Anderson. "His conformation isn't bad, maybe a little straight, but he's a runner."

There doesn't appear to be a lot of pure speed in the race and Anderson said he thinks that Californiatruegrit could be tough to catch.

"He's got so much natural speed that it looks like he'll be the one in front," he said. "He showed us he doesn't need the lead, though, so we'll just see how it shapes up."