04/05/2012 12:49PM

Woodbine: Meyaard makes a fresh start with smaller stable


ETOBICOKE, Ontario — Trainer Jim Meyaard had been operating in relative anonymity, mostly on the Alberta “B” circuit, when he set up shop at Northlands Park in 2007.

Now, after making a serious impression at that Edmonton racetrack over the last three seasons, Meyaard has moved his operation to Woodbine and has every intention of remaining.

“I came right from the bottom, with $1,100 old, crippled claimers,” said Meyaard, 44, who was born and raised on a cattle ranch north of Grand Prairie, Alberta and trained cutting horses for rodeos before moving over to the Thoroughbreds in the late 1990s.

“I’d always wanted a shot with better horses.”

Meyaard’s ascendence began in 2007 when he hooked up with owners Barb and Al Side.

“They’d been in the game about nine years, and had very little luck,” said Meyaard.

The partnership made its first big splash in 2009 with horses such as Salt Flat Speed and Alywyn, both acquired through the claiming box, and a promising 2-year-old named No Hesitation.

Meyaard topped the 2009 Northlands meeting with 64 winners and earnings of more than $700,000 in what was by far his best campaign to date.

Those three horses were multiple stakes winners in 2010 with No Hesitation capturing Alberta’s biggest race, the Grade 3 Canadian Derby, and going on to be named Alberta’s horse of the year and champion 3-year-old. Meyaard finished second in races won that year with 44 as his stable’s earnings exceeded $900,000.

Salt Flat Speed and Alywyn both were multiple stakes winners again in 2011 but Meyaard slipped to seventh in the Northlands standings with 33 wins in what was a transition year for the stable.

“I’d actually been planning to come here last year,” said Meyaard, explaining that Barb Side had been experiencing some health problems and he decided to return to Alberta so she could stay in touch with her horses.

‘I had about 35 horses, but I chopped all the bottom-enders out. I’ve got 12 stalls here now, and another 12 horses at Ballycroy Training Centre. “

Meyaard’s runners here include No Hesitation, Salt Flat Speed, and Alywyn.

“Last year was a wipeout for No Hesitation,” said Meyaard, who sent out the 4-year-old just three times before putting him away in early summer.

“He had a little trouble in Arkansas, and then in his second start at Northlands he tore his back end up a little bit so I gave him the year off.

“Right now, he’s training as good as he ever has. I have a gut feeling he’ll run on grass.”

Salt Flat Speed, a 7-year-old gelding, raced only six times in 2011 but banked more than $80,000.

“He’s a bad footed horse, and he’s got a little age on him,” said Meyaard, whose Starline Thoroughbreds is a part-owner. “We’ll see how he goes here.”

Alywyn, a 6-year-old, also saw her production slip somewhat in 2011 but still earned $52,024 from eight starts.

“We just bred her to Philanthropist, and we plan to continue to run her,” said Meyaard. “We’ll see how she comes along.”

Meyaard also is looking forward to the return of Smart Roar and Pretty Wonder.

Smart Roar, a 5-year-old mare, had been purchased privately from Sam-Son Farm and became a stakes winner for Meyaard and partners Kelvin Godin and Craig Robertson. The same partnership picked up a yearling filly at the open local sale last fall for $8,700.

Pretty Wonder, a 3-year-old filly, won her only start last year for Barb Side., whose Side Management purchased a $45,000 filly and a $21,000 colt at the select sale here.

“I’m working on buying two or three more horses,” said Meyaard. ”I’d like to have 16 at the track, and 10 or 12 at the farm.”

Meyaard also points out that his wife, Amber, has been a critical factor in the stable’s success. Riding under her maiden name, Amber Dickinson, she recorded 81 wins while competing mostly on the “B” circuits of Alberta and British Columbia between 1998 and 2005.

“She’s the key to the operation,” said Meyaard, adding that the couple very much employs a hands-on approach.

“I shoe all my own horses, and do all their legs up. I know every pimple on them.

“Amber breezes most of them, and I gallop them.”

Meyaard also has come into his first Woodbine meeting on a fresh course, breaking a pattern in which he had competed at Fonner Park and Oaklawn Park in recent winters.

“We hadn’t had a break in three years,” said Meyaard. “The horses needed a break, and we needed a break. We started training on the farm Jan. 15, and came in here in early March.”

Moran hopes to build on first-year success

David Moran finished with a flourish here last year in his first full campaign since relocating to Ontario from his native Ireland, riding six winners through the closing week of the meeting.

Now, Moran, 29, will be looking to build on that success with the benefit of that season under his girth.

“Last year, it was hard work,” said Moran. “It’s a different way of riding, and as the year went on I learned a lot.

“I adjusted, and in the last month we were going very strong.”

Moran had made an auspicious debut here in 2006, riding Roan Inish to victory in the $250,000 Princess Elizabeth, and returned to capture the next spring’s $500,000 Woodbine Oaks aboard that Carolyn Costigan-trained filly.

Those successes encouraged Moran to move from the yard of Irish trainer Jim Bolger, with whom he had put in his apprenticeship.

“It was a big move,” said Moran, who was accompanied here by his wife and their five children.

Moran was represented last year by veteran agent John Bell, who announced his retirement earlier this year. His mounts now are being booked by Ron Burke.

“We’ve been in here since February,” said Moran. “We’ve been very busy, working hard. The trainers have been very good to us.

“Everything seems to be going in the right direction.”