The Stavro legacy lives on

ROB LONGLEY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:27 AM ET

Sally Stavro never has had much difficulty negotiating her way around a racetrack -- from the backstretch to the winner's circle and most spots in between.

But yesterday in Woodbine's walking ring, where she sat at a table adorned with the famous Knob Hill Stables silks, Stavro was looking lost.

She had come to the Rexdale track for the annual Queen's Plate breakfast and post position draw to learn the immediate fate of her late husband's two Plate prospects.

But without Steve Stavro at her side, yesterday wasn't the same, nor will it be Sunday when Leonnatus Anteas and Alezzandro sport the Stavro colours for the 148th running of Canada's most famous race.

"There will be some tears, I'm going to think of him," Stavro said yesterday, choking up at the thought. "These are Steve's horses. He bought Leonnatus when he was a baby and Alezzandro was a horse that he bred. He was his pride and joy. I will have my family with me to help, but it will be tough not to have him here.

"These were the days he loved. He was a sportsman through and through. Soccer. Hockey. Boxing. Racing. You name it."

It is difficult to know for certain which famous Canadian sporting trophy Stavro yearned for most.

He never came close enough to the Stanley Cup in his stewardship of the Maple Leafs, of course, but when it comes to the Plate, at least he has been in the race.

And the pair of colts attempting to dash home first in Sunday's 11/4-mile classic still carry with them some of his influence.

Leonnatus Anteas, which yesterday drew post 8 and is listed as the 6-1 fourth choice in the Plate, was selected by Stavro and purchased in Kentucky for $62,000 US.

He was a brilliant champion for Knob Hill as a two-year-old, winning all three of his starts, two of them stakes to earn a Sovereign Award and serious interest as a Plate contender.

But after a mystery ailment sidelined him for part of the winter, "Leo" is attempting to make up for lost time. The Plate will be just the second start of his three-year-old campaign, a tall order for a gruelling race.

At 15-1, Alezzandro is lesser regarded in the morning line and the Plate will be just his third career start. The chestnut is a homebred and a colt Stavro had a special fondness for from the moment he hit the ground.

While there are more sensible choices Sunday, one of the thrills for both Stavros was the prospect of a long shot upstaging the logical favourites.

There was no greater example than in 1992 when his gritty colt, Benburb upset Alydeed in the Prince of Wales Stakes and in the fall won the Molson Export Million, both at long odds.

Stavro never was afraid to take a shot with the human element in the game either, recruiting young Kevin Attard to help breathe some fresh life into his racing outfit.

Attard didn't get to know the boss for long, but he knew him well enough to respect the Stavro's passion for racing.

"We kind of hit it off right from the get to, had a good rapport," Attard said. "He sent me to Payson Park (in Florida) to train the horses in the winter and had that trust factor with me right away."

The current task at hand is not lost on Attard. He knows that the two colts racing Sunday are the final generation that Stavro had the delight to enjoy with his own eyes.

In that sense, it's one final chance to bring the native of Macedonia a victory in the race he loved the most.

"It would be bittersweet if we were to win," said Attard, whose uncle Sid conditions the 9-5 morning-line favourite, Jiggs Coz. "Obviously when you have a stable like theirs and breed horses year in and year out, you hope to participate and ultimately win this race.

"So far it has eluded them. If we should win it, it would be an extremely proud moment. It would be nice to see the Knob Hill colours flying on the infield that day."


Photos