10/05/2006 11:00PM

What generation gap?


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Two newcomers, born a generation apart, have joined the local trainer and jockey colonies here at Woodbine following the conclusion of the Assiniboia Downs meeting two weeks ago.

But while one might naturally assume that the jockey would be the junior member of the twosome, the opposite is in fact true.

Alan Cuthbertson, at age 59, topped the jockey standings at the Winnipeg, Manitoba, racetrack with 81 victories this season, including six stakes.

Martin Drexler, age 36, finished fourth in the trainer standings there with 28 wins from 110 starters, which was by far his best campaign in his five years in the profession.

Cuthbertson began his riding career in Ontario in 1964 but headed out to Alberta a couple of years later and spent much of his career in British Columbia.

After falling afoul of provincial regulators because of a positive test for cocaine there in the spring of 2004, Cuthbertson lost his conditional license.

Meanwhile, Cuthbertson had ridden at Assiniboia in 2001, finishing third in the standings with 71 victories.

In the fall of 2005, Cuthbertson applied for a license in Manitoba and was approved.

"Winnipeg gave me a second chance, and I took advantage of it," said Cuthbertson, who checked into Woodbine the other day along with his agent, Bonnie Eshelman. "I was motivated."

Drexler had taken out his trainer's license in 2002 after cutting his teeth with top Manitoba horsemen such as breeder Cam Ziprick and trainer Brian Palaniuk.

"I kind of came in from left field," said Drexler, whose introduction to the racing game came through his father, Jaroslav Drexler, who was a racetrack physician.

The younger Drexler's career started out quietly, with 2 wins from 8 starters in 2002, but progressed with winning totals of 5, 7, and 11 through increasing numbers of entrants.

During that span, Drexler had started making the trek to Woodbine following the conclusion of the Assiniboia meeting, first getting the lay of the land while working as a hotwalker and groom for expatriate Winnipeg trainer Sandy McPherson in 2003.

In his next trip east, Drexler purchased a couple of horses to campaign in Winnipeg and had his first major success with Ola Docura, who was a stakes winner of $53,250 the following season and sold for $32,000 (U.S.) at Kentucky this January.

Then, last fall, Drexler went on a shopping spree here and shipped home no fewer than nine horses.

The majority of the lower-end purchases, campaigning for Jaroslav Drexler's Equinox Racing in partnership with other Winnipeg clients, paid their way and then some.

Three fillies purchased from trainer Catherine Day Phillips won a total of seven races at Assiniboia this year, with Rocket Girl and Beyond the Blue three-time winners and Temper Time adding a single tally.

Borntobeloved, Whiskey Run, Snappy Tim, and Early Approval all were purchased from trainer Ross Armata, and each won a pair of races this year in Winnipeg.

Wild to Go, also acquired from Armata, failed to win in nine starts but paid his way by flirting with the record books with seven consecutive second-place finishes before closing out his Assiniboia campaign with a pair of lesser awards.

Drexler's big break, however, actually came through his association with owner Stuart Hyman, who also has horses here at Woodbine with trainer Mike Keogh.

A chance meeting with Hyman, who was at the Keeneland January sale where Drexler sold Ola Docura through consignor Windfields Farms, led to the owner sending some horses to Assiniboia this summer.

"I'd kept in touch with him over the spring, and when summer came, all of a sudden he starting sending me horses," said Drexler. "Next thing you know, I had six for him at one point. It worked out pretty good."

Good, indeed, as Drexler sent out three stakes winners for Hyman at Assiniboia.

Emma's Touch, on loan from Keogh, won the Debutante in July, and First Cavalry, who also began his career at Woodbine, captured the Winnipeg Futurity in August.

Empress Pegasus, who had been based in Kentucky, joined Drexler's string this summer and recorded her first lifetime win in the $60,000 Matron Breeders' Cup on Assiniboia's closing weekend.

Empress Pegasus and First Cavalry are among the four horses Drexler will be training for Hyman here this fall.

"It always was my plan to come here," said Drexler. "But, I really wanted to make sure that when I did come I had the stock that belonged."

Enhancing the Winnipeg connection here is the fact that First Cavalry, Emma's Touch, and nine of Drexler's other winners were ridden by Cuthbertson.

"He's been nothing but good to me," said Drexler. "For an older guy, he's as athletic a rider as you're going to get.

"And, he will get run from horses. I wouldn't have any hesitation to put him on a horse here in Toronto."

Drexler, however, is not about to get carried away by his own stint in the big city.

"Obviously, I'd like to stay here at some point," said Drexler. "But as much as my year looked good, I haven't proven quite enough yet.

"Unless something earth-shattering happens, I'm going to go back. I like it - it's home.

"Hopefully, I'll do well over there, and then bring some horses here again."