08/20/2009 11:00PM

Solid base for Meyaard's ascent


EDMONTON, Alberta - Leading trainer Jim Meyaard has a lot of people shaking their heads at Northlands Park. Meyaard began the meet on fire, and there are no signs that he is about to cool off. He won two more races on Wednesday, and he came into the weekend with 34 wins from 72 starts. As well as winning with 47 percent of his starters, he has had 79 percent of his starters finish in the money.

Meyaard won with 10 of his first 13 starters of the meet, including eight wins in a row. His hot start concerned track officials here, and he was forced to run out of a makeshift detention barn for a short period. As long as anyone here can remember, a Northlands trainer had never been required to house his horses in a detention barn.

"I think I am the first guy to ever go into a detention barn without a ruling," said Meyaard. "I was running out of there for a week and a day, and I had the same percentage I had running out of my own barn."

Meyaard, 42, thinks one of the reasons he got off to such a good start at the meet was that he spent the spring in Nebraska, running at Fonner Park, where he won two races from 23 starts.

"The money isn't great there, but it is an excellent spot to spring-train," said Meyaard. "I came in with fresh horses that had a big advantage over the ones that had to try and get fit here."

Meyaard is a hands-on trainer. As well as exercising many of his horses, he also does all of the shoeing.

"I know every pimple on these horses," said Meyaard. "They run on good feed. It's as simple as that. They get a lot of TLC, and I just try and keep them happy. I also have great help, and nobody working for me is afraid of hard work."

Meyaard began his training career in 1999 at Grande Prairie, a bush track north of Edmonton. In his first year there he won 5 races from 32 starts.

"I was raised in the cutting horse business in rodeos," said Meyaard. "Bert and Diane Delaney asked me if I was willing to train racehorses for them in Grande Prairie. I told Bert I knew nothing about it and he just said, 'You can't learn?' Once I got started I was hooked, and I never looked back. I faded my cutting horse thing out and have been a trainer ever since."

Meyaard is engaged to be married to former jockey Amber Dickinson on Nov. 21. Dickinson won 81 races while riding mostly at bush tracks in Alberta and British Columbia. She is a big part of the Meyaard operation.

"Amber and I gallop all of the horses, and she pretty well breezes everything," said Meyaard. "She certainly has had a lot to do with the success we have had this year."

Meyaard has won with 20 percent of his starters over his career, mostly at bush tracks. This is by far his best year at this level. Last year he won 15 races here.

"It helps having the right kind of horses and it doesn't hurt having Rickey and Rico Walcott riding for me," said Meyaard. "They are both great riders."

Partly because of Meyaard's success, one of California's leading trainers, Doug O'Neill, shipped Scorewithcater to Meyaard to run in Saturday's Grade 3 Canadian Derby under Meyaard's name. According to Meyaard, if Scorewithcater comes out of the derby in good shape, he will stay in his barn and be pointed to the Grade 3, $250,000 B.C. Derby at Hastings on Sept. 27.