It didn’t take long for Jamie Attard as a 10-year-old kid to figure out that being part of the thoroughbred racing scene was not an easy gig.
His father, veteran conditioner Sid Attard (inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2013), made certain of that.
“I started working at the racetrack with my father on weekends and holidays from school when I was about 10 or 11,” recalled Jamie. “Dad told me in order to become a real horseman you have to start from the bottom and work your way up. So, he put a shank in my hand and he started me out as a hotwalker.
“I was 15 or 16 when my dad moved me up to grooming horses,” he continued. “He told me to pay attention to the best grooms in his barn and learn as much as I could from them. I became an assistant trainer for my father at the beginning of 2008 and served as his assistant until the end of 2012.”
Not surprisingly, the younger Attard gained a wealth of knowledge working alongside his father.
“It was hard not to learn something new from him on a daily basis,” offered Jamie, whose uncle Larry is a Hall of Fame jockey and now trains. “Not because he was my father, but working for and learning from a Hall of Fame trainer really was a privilege. He has always had an incredible work ethic and it became infectious almost immediately. He said, ‘If you’re going to do something, do it right the first time or don’t bother doing it at all.’ The best lesson he taught me is that you have to treat each horse as an individual, what may work for one won’t necessarily work for another.”
Jamie’s first training win came on September 29, 2012. It was memorable moment made even more special considering what day it was on the calendar.
“It happened to be my father’s birthday, oddly enough,” he noted. “I was still working for my dad as a groom and assistant trainer that year when my best friend Amanda Motz and her boyfriend Jamie Begg, of Kingstead Stables, gave me my first horse to train, a maiden three-year-old filly named Grace O’Malley. At about the 3/16 pole, she made the lead and and held on to win by a neck. I had dreamed about what winning my first race would be like a hundred times, but it was so much greater than I ever imagined. It was also Amanda and Jamie’s first win as an owner so it was really special to share that with them.”
This year, Jamie will have 10 stalls on the Woodbine backstretch (he has 17 horses in all). In 29 career starts, he has five wins, five seconds and six thirds, accompanied by $179,466 in purse earnings.
And while he has a way to go to catch his father (Sid has 1,826 wins and over $54-million in purse earnings), Jamie has his sights set on achieving the same training success as other members of the Woodbine-based Attard clan, his brother Paul, uncle Tino, and cousins Kevin and Steve. His late uncle Joe also had a successful training career.
“I think the best way I could describe myself as a trainer is patient,” noted Jamie, who aspires to win the Queen’s Plate one day. “It takes a lot of time to get a horse ready for the races and that requires you to be patient. You have to give them the time to come around to where you’re watching them work and say to yourself, “Okay, now they’re ready for the next step.”
It’s something Jamie Attard can also say about himself.