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Sending out winners

Trainer has small stable but is producing big results

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Jim MEYAARD remembers looking at a mare named Lil Missknowitall's papers last fall at Remington Race Track in Oklahoma and thinking he might buy her. Then he saw her run and he was convinced.

"She ran in a $50,000 stake down there on Oct. 5, called the Flashy Lady," recalled Meyaard, a trainer who is currently turning heads at Assiniboia Downs with a stable of only six horses. "She ran fourth by 4 1/2 lengths. The mare that ran third (Moon Buzz), I know her well. She has won multiple stakes. But the two that were first and second (Burst Of Life and All About Allie) were race horses. So I was thinking, if this $8,000 filly can run with those mares and be only four lengths off, she has to be worth all the money in the world.

So far, Meyaard's horses have been doing fine here. Lil Missknowitall has won both her outings including the $30,000 La Verendrye Stakes with Christopher Husbands in the irons. Rubyintheruff, a five-year-old mare, has also won both her races. His six-year-old gelding Juan Might has a win, a second and a fourth and Ran The Man, a six-year-old gelding, has a win and a third-place finish.

Add it up -- four horses, six wins, one second and a third.

'I've raced everywhere in the country, and this is the best track surface in Canada. My horses come back smiling, and that tells me everything'

-- Jim Meyaard on racing at Assiniboia Downs

"Lil Missknowitall had some issues with her feet when we got her but she won the day we claimed her, and she amazed us the other day when she won the La Verendrye. She did it so easy, just on cruise," said Meyaard.

"These horses I have now are nice horses, but if I take them to Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., they are just so-so horses. Rubyintheruff is an exception. We don't know just how good that filly is. She is big, she is huge and you have to run her when everything's right. But she is a runner."

Meyaard's training methods got him some extra attention at Northlands Park in Edmonton when he was posting winning percentages of 36.8 in 2009, 29.0 in 2010 and 28.97 in 2011. In 2011, he was the leading percentage trainer in Alberta, but along with his percentages came what he terms "suspicion and jealousy."

He maintains the accusations levied against him were, "I must be doing something illegal," so Horse Racing Alberta began investigating him. "They tested me every which way but Sunday, and I have never ever even had a murky test in my life. But they had a lot of suspicions."

Once he was seen injecting something from a syringe into one of his horse's mouths.

"They came storming in and tested all my mouth syringes and found a derivative of plant material," he said.

"Yup, plant material, like oats and hay," his wife Amber (formerly Dickinson, who was also a jockey here 10 years ago), told the Edmonton Journal. "When a horse doesn't finish his meal, Jim puts it into an oral syringe and squirts it into the horse's mouth."

Still, Meyaard was fined $1,000 for what the Alberta racing officials said was, "in the best interests of horse racing."

On another occasion, the Grande Prairie, Alta., native, was forced to place his horses in detention stalls a few days prior to racing so that he, and his staff, could be scrutinized.

"There was no reason to put me in there, except for suspicion," claimed Meyaard, who despite the scrutiny through 14 races in detention, saw his winning percentage leap from, "39 or 42 per cent to 63 per cent."

Meyaard says in his barn the horses are the No. 1 priority, and his and Amber's secret to training winners, is their holistic approach that helps keep them contented. Often it's a simple thing such as placing the horses' hay on the ground outside their stalls, which enables them to look around, see other horses, people, and their stable goat Phyllis Diller, while they dine in a more sociable setting.

It also embraces their physical well-being, and that includes what they run on.

"I've raced everywhere in the country, and this is the best track surface in Canada. My horses come back smiling, and that tells me everything," he said.

petto@shaw.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2013 C5

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