04/14/2008 12:00AM

Shifting base to Maryland revitalizes slumping stable

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Sometimes, one only needs a change of scenery.

Layne Giliforte, a perennial leading trainer at Fort Erie in Canada in the late 1990s and early 2000s, by his own admission wasn't putting up his usual strong stats in recent years. This past winter, instead of making his typical migration to Tampa Bay Downs, he moved his 18-head outfit to Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland with an eye on spots at Laurel Park and Philadelphia Park.

On the heels of a 3-for-26 skid north of the border from Oct. 1 through Dec. 1, Giliforte has since won with 13 of 43 runners. His performance this year - 12 wins in 39 starts with a $2.60 return on investment - shows his success clearly and indicates bettors have yet to really take notice of the new face in town.

"I had a sign at my barn in Canada that said, 'Losing is not an option,' and that's something I have to get sent down here," said Giliforte, 40, who groomed 1990 Canadian Triple Crown champ Izvestia and served as an assistant to trainers Roger Attfield and Mike Wright Sr. before he went on his own in 1993. "I'm trying my best to spot our horses perfectly in order to make an impression. Horse racing is so statistical these days, and if you don't have the numbers, nobody wants you. I have great support from my owners, and that has helped.

"I love horses as animals, but we are not going to show an attachment in where we place them. We have to run them where they can win and I like to keep that mindset. We want to get to the winner's circle, and if someone else does the same with one of our horses after we lose one, we cannot let it bother us. If I even have a doubt as to where to run one, I have to check myself and find an easy spot to get a win. I've always found it easier to talk to an owner about why we won rather than make excuses about why we lost."

Giliforte viewed his move to Fair Hill as simply a seasonal change at the time, but in mid-January realized he could rejuvenate his career and decided to make the move permanent.

"Fair Hill offers a great atmosphere - it's simply the way to train horses," he said. "You aren't cramped for time, it's not a racetrack backstretch atmosphere, and the horses really benefit. You are also not tied to a racetrack, and it gives you many options as to where you can run."

Given Giliforte's "Just win, baby" approach, it seems his hand will remain strong this spring.

"I've given some thought to strategy moving ahead and have looked through four or five upcoming condition books," he said.

Giliforte will have 20 to 24 horses by May 1, and hopes to grow the size of his stable from there.

"We'll try to find the best spots, no matter where they are - Laurel, Delaware, Penn National, it doesn't matter."

In a day and age where many seem to handicap on Beyer Speed Figures and not much else, Giliforte takes a more traditional approach, holding class in high regard. As a result, his stats show he is very capable at keeping horses in sharp form for extended time periods - 29 percent of his winners repeat.

"We don't want to overstress our horses and I believe that helps us keep a horse in strong form throughout the year," Giliforte explained. "I think it's important to keep a gauge on the individual and really consider proper timing and class for a horse's next race. I try to avoid the 'bounce theory' because I do believe in it, and also try to avoid multiple steps up in class at once."

Giliforte's barn, which has the support of Melnyk Racing Stables Inc. as a primary owner, figures to climb the class ladder this year.