05/10/2006 11:00PM

At 13, a lot of horse left in Major Zee

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Major Zee still has zip at age 13. He opened his 2006 campaign with a gate-to-wire victory last Saturday in a $4,000 bottom-level claimer at Fort Erie. The win was Major Zee's 19th in 73 career starts.

Surprisingly, he was claimed by Jason Giliforte, who is in his fourth year as a trainer, for owner Jeanne Ryan.

Giliforte, 33, gained prominence last fall, when he won the Puss N' Boots Cup, one of Fort Erie's most popular events, with Kris's Dancer.

There were rumors that Major Zee was claimed in order to be retired, but Giliforte said that wasn't the case.

"I'm not a retirement home," said Giliforte. "I'm trying to make money. I'm looking to run him in two-furlong races and on the turf."

Giliforte said he is not interested in running Major Zee back at a notch higher for a quick return.

Major Zee had previously been owned by Eldorado Farms and trained by Mark Fournier since the summer of 2003, which was Fournier's second year as a trainer.

Eldorado Farms got Major Zee cheaply, said Fournier.

"Major Zee was shut out in six starts the year before," he said. "And he was losing at $5,000."

Major Zee won 5 of 7 starts for Fournier in 2003, the final one at $25,000. After winning 2 of his first 3 starts the following year, Major Zee was tried on grass and responded by winning the Parnitha in July 2004. His record for the year was 3 for 5. Last year, Major Zee was 1 for 5, winning an allowance on the grass.

Feeling that Major Zee might not carry his weight at 13, Eldorado Farms sold him to Fournier for a small sum.

"I was going to give him a couple of races at the bottom and then retire him," said Fournier. "I had already made arrangements for him to go to Stephen Well's farm."

Deverell wastes no time riding a winner

It took jockey Dean Deverell a long time to get to Thoroughbred racing. He was 35 when he embarked on his new career this year. It didn't take him long, however, to reach the winner's circle.

Deverell scored in back-to-back races at Fort Erie on Sunday, riding Judith's Lake to victory in the sixth and Mimi's Pride in the seventh. The rides were only his fifth and sixth at the meet. He is 0 for 5 at Woodbine.

Deverell was in the money with all three of his horses Monday - two seconds and a third.

Deverell, born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, galloped and exercised horses at nearby Woodbine. Too heavy to be a jockey, Deverell rode Quarter Horses for six years at Picov Downs.