05/24/2002 12:00AM

Thornfield can't regain his old form


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When Alec Fehr took over as private trainer for Knob Hill Stable this January, his horses included Thornfield, who was Canada's Horse of the Year in 1999.

Thornfield, owned and bred by Knob Hill principals Steve and Sally Stavro, had earned that title, plus Sovereign Award honors as champion turf horse, after winning the Grade 1 Canadian International.

But he never came close to rediscovering that form when making just one start in 2000 and four in 2001. Now, after finishing well back in this year's bow, Thornfield has been retired to a life of leisure.

"Alec wanted to give him another shot at it, but it didn't work," said Steve Stavro, who was at Woodbine visiting his equine team the other morning. "He was training better than he was running."

Thornfield already has taken up residence at the Knob Hill property in nearby Newmarket, where he has the run of what Stavro, with tongue in cheek, calls "a small paddock, about 25 acres."

"He's paid his dues," said Stavro. "We were very fortunate to have a horse of the year."

Thornfield, a Canadian-bred son of Sky Classic and Alexandrina, also won the Grade 2 Niagara Handicap during his championship campaign. He retires with a record of six wins, a second, and three thirds and earnings of $1,206,074 from 19 starts.

While the Thornfield revival did not materialize, Fehr remains more than happy with his new state.

"It's a nice change from claiming horses, trying to turn them over, improve off them," said Fehr, who has 14 Knob Hill horses at Woodbine plus another six at the farm.

"You're not picking up other people's problems. You're taking 2-year-olds and developing them, and Mr. Stavro is a very patient man."

Fehr, 35, has had his trainer's license since 1994, when he started out with a small public stable.

"My big break came in February 1998," said Fehr. "I held a seminar at the Woodbine grandstand, and invited 121 people. Only 21 showed up, but they were the serious ones."

From that gathering emerged the nucleus of ownership groups that became known as Sweetwater Stable and Bacchus Stable, which raced horses here with Fehr.

Then Bruno Schickedanz, perennially among the continent's leading owners, hired Fehr as one of his trainers.

That successful partnership reached its apex with Salty Note, who won the Valedictory in his first start after being claimed for $40,000 here in 1999 and added two mores stakes scores in Maryland during the winter of 2000.

Nymphenburg primed for Nassau

Fehr, who went through some lean times after parting company with Schickedanz early last year, should be looking for his first stakes win for Knob Hill next Sunday, with Nymphenburg slated for the Nassau.

The Nassau, offering Grade 2 status and a purse of $250,000, goes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf course.

Nymphenburg, a 6-year-old mare, became a stakes winner and was one of the better local female turf performers when trained by Jerry Meyer last year.

"She's the star of the barn," said Fehr.

Nymphenburg has started once this year, finishing fourth in a classified allowance over 6 1/2 furlongs on the main track.

"That was just a tightener," said Fehr. "She was closing willingly, on her own. And she worked very awesome, six furlongs in 1:14 last Saturday.

"We haven't even come close to the bottom of the well with her; we haven't even asked her to do anything."

Broodmare Bold Debra dead

Stavro reports that Bold Debra, the Knob Hill broodmare who produced the likes of stakes winners Victoriously Bold, Megas Vukefalos and Debra's Victory, died at Windfields Farm last month while giving birth to an Iskandar Elakbar colt.

Bold Debra, a Sovereign Award winner as Canada's outstanding broodmare in 1993, was buried at another Stavro farm in Campbellcroft, Ontario, near Port Hope.

Islendingdur, a colt by Cool Victor out of Bold Debra, is among Knob Hill's current 2-year-old crop.

"We're very excited about him," said Fehr.

Queen's Plate prospects getting fit

Two candidates for the June 23 Queen's Plate worked on the fast main track here Friday, with Bravely going five furlongs in 1:02.80 and Streakin Rob a mile in 1:41.

Bravely is owned and trained by Catherine Day, and Streakin Rob, who campaigns for Rob Cudney and Allan Kent, and is trained by Jim Day, Catherine's father.

Both are scheduled to run in next Saturday's $150,000 Plate Trial, a 1 1/8-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Bravely, who finished second in the 1 1/16-mile Kingarvie last fall and won his maiden over 1 1/16 miles in the slop in his last start May 12, worked in company with stablemate Agolo, a 4-year-old filly who was clocked in 1:03.20.

Jim McKnight, who will be Bravely's new rider for the Trial, was aboard for the drill. Jake Barton, who had ridden Bravely in his three starts this spring but is committed to Shaws Creek for the Trial, worked Agolo.

"I wanted Bravely to just sit in behind her nice and relaxed, which he did," said Catherine Day, "and then kick in at the eighth pole, when Jim asked him to. He went by her pretty quickly, and galloped out strongly."

Streakin Rob, winner of the 1 1/8-mile Coronation Futurity at 2 but sixth in his only start of this year in the seven-furlong Queenston, worked on his own under jockey Mickey Walls.

"He was fairly aggressive the first part of it, which I'm not crazy about," said Jim Day. "But he worked well, and pulled up and had a little puff, which probably indicated that he got something out of it.

"And 15 minutes later, he was bouncing and squealing around the shed row, so I guess he's in good fettle."