04/14/2005 12:00AM

Vella begins life without Stronach


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - When trainer Danny Vella announced last fall that he was going public, he expected that Stronach Stable would remain a client.

Vella started training for owner Frank Stronach at the end of 1991. After that stint, he spent most of five years working at Stronach's Adena Springs South farm in Florida and two years ago returned to Woodbine to train for Stronach.

But, as the 2005 season dawns, Vella finds that his training operation has gone even more public than he planned. Of the 23 horses under his shed row here, not a single one is owned by Stronach.

"It feels different, that's for sure," said Vella, who will turn 50 this fall.

Vella had anticipated getting five horses from Stronach.

"I was told I just didn't fit into their plans," said Vella, who was informed of the decision just days before stall applications were finalized.

Vella, a winner of back-to-back Sovereign Awards as outstanding trainer in 1994 and 1995, will be looking to rebuild with horses for clients including Syd Cooper, Mark Stubbs, June Sifton, and Don Amos.

His charges include Mister Coop, a 6-year-old gelding who is a stakes-placed winner of $323,000 for Cooper, and Boldest of All, a 4-year-old filly who is a stakes winner of $153,121 for Stubbs.

One horse who could put him in the spotlight is Stag Nation, owned by Class Action Stable, a group in which Vella is a partner.

Stag Nation, a colt by Running Stag, is nominated to the $1 million Queen's Plate here June 26. Stag Nation's best races last year came on the turf, but he did finish second in his second start on the main track here last summer.

"He trains very well on dirt," said Vella. "We'll point in the direction of the Plate, but if he doesn't handle the dirt we'll switch right away."

Stag Nation is nominated to the $125,000 Woodstock, a six-furlong race here April 23 that will be the first stakes prep on the Plate trail, but could opt for a different spot.

"I'd like to get a start into him in the next couple of weeks," said Vella.

No Stronach horses for Keogh

Mike Keogh, who trained for Stronach for the first time last year, also is out of that picture this season.

Keogh, who was the private conditioner for Gustav Schickedanz but started taking on other clients in 2003, had five stalls for Stronach horses last year.

This year Keogh has 27 horses. Twelve of them are owned by Schickedanz, including the formidable pair of Wando and Mobil.

Wando has been entered in Saturday's opening-day Jacques Cartier while Mobil will await the seven-furlong Vigil on April 30.

Mobil was an impressive winner of the Grade 3 Vigil in his first start last year.

Nixon, Frankel in the fold

Justin Nixon will be the only returning Stronach trainer here, with 15 stalls for the outfit. Stronach will have another 25 stalls for horses trained by Bobby Frankel, who will continue to be based in California and New York but will be checking up on the troops here.

Brian Lynch, who gave up a public stable to become a Frankel assistant last May, will be in charge of the day-to-day operations here. Most recently, Lynch was in charge of Frankel's Gulfstream division.

Lynch, who was born in Australia, trained in California for 14 years with his best runners including multiple stakes winners Only the Best, Fire Sale Queen, and Rexy Sexy.

Attfield and Kinghaven split

Another long association has come to an end this year as Roger Attfield no longer is training for Kinghaven Farm, which is owned by Woodbine president and chief executive officer David Willmot.

Attfield started training for Kinghaven in 1985 and their innumerable successes included Canadian Triple Crown winners With Approval and Izvestia.

The current trainer for the Willmot horses is Jeff Bowen, who took out his license late last year. Bowen, 27, is the son-in-law of Ian Black, who has been the farm manager at Kinghaven for 30 years.

Bowen has four 2-year-olds among his six horses here with the most promising being Seductively, a homebred filly by Thunder Gulch out of multiple stakes winner Torrid Affair.

Attfield, meanwhile, will not be suffering for clients and will fill his full complement of 45 stalls for longtime patrons including Mickey Canino, Charles Fipke, Bill Graham and Bill Werner.

* Phil England ran a public stable but now is the private conditioner for Gino Molinaro, who was with trainer Ross Armata Jr. last year. England has 16 stalls here. Armata is one of two new trainers for Bruno Schickedanz, along with Kwong C. Lam. Schickedanz also will continue to have horses with Abraham Katryan, including Jacques Cartier entrant Wake at Noon.

* Darwin Banach, a former England assistant, has 16 stalls and will be the primary trainer for Bill Sorokolit and Bill Sorokolit Jr. Their best horse, Classic Stamp, will remain with Cliff Hopmans.

* Jody Hammett, also with 16 stalls, will be a new trainer for owner Herbert Chambers while trainer Frank Passero is renewing old acquaintances with John Brnjas of Colebrook Farm. Passero has 24 horses for Colebrook plus two for other clients. Norm McKnight, who trained for Colebrook last year, is back with a public stable and has 14 horses. New trainers on the block include Bill Tharrenos and Nick Nozowenko, both longtime owners. Tharrenos has four horses here while Nozowenko has eight.