07/26/2006 11:00PM

Age no obstacle for horse or trainer


FORT ERIE, Ontario - It was a shining day for a couple of seniors at Fort Erie on Tuesday.

Major Zee, 13, won a quarter-mile sprint for his second win of the year, and trainer Jack Wilson, 86, saddled his fourth winner at the meet.

For Major Zee, bred by the late Steve Stavro, it was his 20th victory in 77 career starts. The $9,900 he earned in the $10,000 claimer raised his earnings to $370,008.

Trainer Jason Giliforte claimed Major Zee for the track's bottom price of $4,000 when the horse began his 2006 campaign with a victory on May 6. Before Tuesday's victory, Major Zee had one second-place finish in three starts for Giliforte.

At the time of the claim, Giliforte responded to rumors that the purpose of his claim was to put Major Zee out to pasture.

"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 has Major Zee nominated to the Aug. 6 Parnitha Cup, which is scheduled for five furlongs on the turf.

Neil Poznansky, aboard for many of Major Zee's successes, was impressed with Major Zee's latest effort.

"On the break he stumbled a bit," Poznansky said. "He got squeezed, but ran between them anyway. He's a racehorse, through and through."

Meanwhile, Wilson is not slowing down at his age even though he has had a slow start this year. With 16 wins at Fort Erie last year, he finished 10th in the trainer standings.

"I'm bouncing back from a lot of viruses in my barn," said Wilson, who has a 21 percent win rate from his 19 starters here this year. "It floored me completely."

Two years ago, Wilson, a Toronto native, sold his training center, which faces the Fort Erie track, and bought a 60-acre farm near Ocala, Fla. He scours area farms there for bargains during the winter.

Wilson returned to Fort Erie with 17 runners this year, two more than he had last year. Eight of them are2-year-olds.

But so far, it's an older runner, Karamanduka, the winner on Tuesday, that has turned out to be the first nugget in his latest batch of private purchases.

Karamanduka, a low-level claimer, has won three of his eight starts at the meet. He is a trailer early who sweeps very wide around the final turn and rockets by his opposition.

"He runs the last quarter faster than the first," said Wilson. "We found his hole card. He loves to run at them. I got him for $500. The guy just wanted to get rid of him. He had a leg problem and was off almost a year."

Injured Rombis on the mend

Trainer Debbie Rombis expects to be released from the hospital this weekend to continue her recovery at home.

Rombis's pelvis was broken in three places and her tailbone also was fractured when a horse reared backwards and toppled onto her as she was leaving the sand ring at the track on June 3.

"I've been feeling a lot better," she said. "I want to thank everybody for their concern."