11/17/2006 1:00AM

Trainer race? May the best woman win


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - New ground will be broken here next weekend when a woman will become the leading trainer at Hastings for the first time in this track's 117-year history.

Heading into the final four days of the meet, Terry Clyde, with 47 wins, holds a four-win lead over Barbara Heads. Clyde is a heavy favorite to win the title, although there is still an outside chance Heads could catch her.

Both Clyde and Heads are aware of the significance of winning the title, but they are taking it in stride.

"It's a great accomplishment, but I think people are making a bigger deal out of it than we are," said Heads. "We've come a long way, but I think racing is one of the few sports where men and woman can compete on a more equal basis. It's not like a muscle thing."

Clyde and Heads are not only good friends, they also are virtually sisters-in-law. Clyde's longtime partner Mike Anderson is Heads's brother. Both would like to win the title, but Clyde seems to want it more.

"It's been a great year for both of us," said Clyde, "But Barb won the [British Columbia] Derby and a bunch of stakes races, so I really need to win the title. I've been the bridesmaid a couple of times, and it would be nice to finally be the bride."

Clyde won 47 races last year, finishing second in the standings to Gary Demorest. She also was the runner-up to Lance Giesbrecht in 1996.

"I would rather be in the lead with Terry trying to catch me," said Heads. "But it's been such a great year, and I'm very satisfied with how it's all gone. Whether I finish first, second, or third in the standings isn't really that important. Besides, we're such good friends and we're related - well, almost - that I would be thrilled for Terry if she won."

A win by Clyde might be slightly more significant for women in general. Other than Anderson, she has an all-female crew.

"All five of my grooms are girls," she said. "And the three exercise riders I use are all women."

Clyde singled out exercise rider Charlene Miller for her patience with young horses at the track. Clyde, who does most of her training at her farm in Langley, a suburb of Vancouver, leaves most of the work at the track to Anderson and Miller.

"Charlene has had a lot to do with our success," she said. "We really listen to what she has to say, especially with the babies."

Clyde and Heads operate vastly different stables. Clyde's barn of approximately 30 to 40 horses consists of mostly lower-level claimers. She hasn't won a stakes race this meet.

Heads's 50- to 60-horse stable is extremely well balanced and includes allowance and stakes horses in addition to a wide range of claiming stock. She trains the top 3-year-old of the meet, B.C. Derby winner Halo Steven, and the top 3-year-old filly, Excited Miss, who has won four Hastings stakes this season.

Both Clyde, 44, and Heads, 48, are daughters of trainers. Clyde's mother, Heather, who died in 1999, was a prominent trainer at Hastings in the 1980's until Terry took out her license in 1989 and slowly took over the stable. One of her main clients is her father, Doug, who also is a former trainer.

Both of Heads's parents were trainers. Her late father, Robert G. "Cy" Anderson, was the leading trainer at Hastings in 1976 and 1977 and is in the local hall of fame. Her mother, June, would take over his stable when he raced horses in California.

"Both of us were encouraged by our parents to go out on our own," said Clyde. "We owe them a lot."

There doesn't seem to be any jealousy or animosity among the male trainers at Hastings. In fact, most of them are very supportive of Clyde and Heads.

"It's about time," said trainer Dave Milburn. "It's great to see barriers coming down and prejudices set aside. It can only be good for the sport."

Harold Barroby, the all-time leading trainer in both wins and stakes wins at Hastings, seems pretty sure Clyde is going to win the title.

"She deserves it, and I'm glad to see it happen," he said. "She works very hard at it, and I don't know anyone that doesn't like her. Both Terry and Barb have done a great job."

"It's awesome," said Dino Condilenios, the leading trainer here in 2003 and 2004. "They're both veteran trainers, they know what they're doing, and it's not surprising that they're doing as well as they are. Good for them."

Heads and Clyde are kind of amused by all of the attention they've been getting from the local media. In the past week they've been featured on radio and television shows as well as being interviewed by members of the press.

"A lot of them are trying to make it out to be more than it really is," said Heads. "I think they want to portray it as a battle zone or a small war between us. Really, we're just a couple of very close friends that are trying to do the best job we can for the people we train for."

"Some of them have had us pose as boxers," said Clyde. "We're obviously very proud of what we've accomplished, but when it's all over we're probably going to get together for a couple of drinks and have a good laugh over the whole thing."