06/22/2005 11:00PM

Triola gang gets behind its horse

Michael Burns Photo Ltd.
Queen's Plate hopeful Get Down with the Triolas, from right, Bob, Nancy, and daughter Danielle.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A Queen's Plate victory would add some serious zest to anyone's family reunion.

That will be the assignment here Sunday for Get Down, who will run for trainer Nancy Triola in the $1 million showpiece for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds.

Triola, along with her husband and assistant, Bob, and their daughter, 8 1/2-month old Danielle, can be found on the Woodbine backstretch every morning. In the afternoon, their stage shifts to nearby Gardiner Farm, where the stable's reserves are in waiting.

"We're an old-fashioned mom-and-pop operation," said Bob Triola. "We're here to bounce things off one another; it's a non-ego partnership.

"And, Danielle, the horses can't run without her."

On Sunday, the Triolas will be joined by several other family members, not to mention a slew of owners representing West Point Thoroughbreds, when Get Down is virtually guaranteed to have the largest cheering section for the 146th running of the Queen's Plate.

"It's amazing," said Nancy Triola, 33. "You wouldn't think it in a million years. He was my first horse to run."

Get Down is not just another face in the Queen's Plate crowd, either. He has won 3 of his 4 starts at Woodbine and enters the 1 1/4-mile race off an encouraging run in the Plate Trial, where he finished third but was moved up to second upon the disqualification of first-place finisher Dance With Ravens.

It's all fairy-tale stuff for Nancy Hickling, as she was known in her pre-Triola days.

Born in Barrie, Ontario, Nancy began breaking yearlings on a local farm when in her early teens. A client who trained at Woodbine suggested that Triola try her hand galloping horses at Woodbine, and she jumped at the suggestion.

"I started to come down every weekend and on holidays," said Triola. "I didn't even have my driver's license yet."

Triola's future on the racetrack was not necessarily preordained, however, as she went through the nursing program at her hometown's Georgian College and was all set to proceed in that career.

"I decided to take a year off," said Triola, who has watched that year stretch into about 13 with no end on the horizon.

Triola's "break" began with a full-time job here as an exercise rider for Mac Benson, when her charges included the champion Santa Amelia and Autumn Slew.

After spending several years in Benson's barn, she began galloping horses for Colebrook Farm and trainer Tom Bowden, where her pupils included the multiple stakes winner Appealing Phylly.

"That's who I started traveling with," said Triola of Appealing Phylly. "I was with her for two years, then I ended up staying in New York."

Nancy Triola ended up spending more than seven years in New York, working mostly for trainer Rick Violette.

Bob Triola, 47, started out with Lucien Laurin and recalls being a spectator when the stable's Secretariat was victorious here in the 1973 Canadian International.

Bob Triola obtained his trainer's license in New York in 1981 and returned there in 1995 after racing in New Jersey and Florida. His achievements include launching the career of Say Florida Sandy and training the multiple stakes winner Dancin Renee.

The Triolas, who met some seven years ago, decided to relocate to Woodbine last May.

"I was expecting, and my whole family's up here," said Nancy Triola. "I thought it was time to come home. I thought we could start up fresh; the purses here are so good."

Bob Triola, who also has family in the Toronto area, said he was happy to make the move.

"I was looking for a change," he said. "In New York, I had hit a plateau."

The West Point group had expressed interest in racing here, and Nancy Triola informed them of the lucrative potential of owning Canadian-breds. That led to West Point purchasing Get Down for $37,000 at the Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale in April 2003.

Bob Triola was the trainer of record through the early part of 2004, but Nancy took out her license in October and sent out Get Down to win back-to-back races here. In fact, she won with the first five horses she saddled before finally losing a race at Tamp Bay Downs Feb. 11.

Get Down also suffered his first defeat at Tampa, finishing 10th in the Tampa Bay Derby.

"It just wasn't his day, and it wasn't his race," said Nancy Triola, who prefers to forgive and forget that performance.

Whatever transpires here in the Queen's Plate, though, Get Down promises to make Sunday a day to remember for his legion of supporters.