06/18/2003 11:00PM

Agosti tied atop trainer standings


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Tom Agosti saddled just three horses during the past week at Fort Erie and scored with two of them.

His 16 wins puts him in a tie for first place in the trainer standings with Layne Giliforte. Agosti, however, has 29 fewer starts than his rival, who has 76.

The loss this week, to Woodbine shipper Ocean Front, was by less than two lengths. It came in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Bridgeport, the first stakes of the season. Agosti said he believes that his runner, Right Stop, the race's 5-2 second choice, was the victim of bad racing luck.

"The horse was slammed very hard leaving the gate and was put off stride," Agosti said. "The horse was put in a bad position [along the rail], where there was a runner in front and another beside him every step of the way. He couldn't get out."

Right Stop's next start may be a 1 1/16-mile allowance next month at Woodbine or the six-furlong Blazing Sevens Stakes here July 19.

"He doesn't really like going three-quarters," Agosti said of Right Stop. "But it could set him up for the [1 1/16-mile] Cool Reception, which is on Aug. 4."

Real Doll given a rest

Real Doll, owned by Frank Stronach, has been sent to the farm following her victory here in last Sunday's Adena Springs Matchmaker, in which she upset her more celebrated entry-mate, Freedom Come. The race came off the grass, and Real Doll got in off the also-eligible list.

"She got her job done," said Real Doll's trainer, Reade Baker. "I'll run her back in a couple of months. She's a very nice filly. She'll run on the dirt or the grass. I was just praying to get in. The 12 hole didn't bother me at all."

Baker praised jockey Frank Todd Jr., who came from far back and burst through along the rail to nail Freedom Come at the wire of the five-furlong event.

Real Doll "was extremely well-ridden," the trainer said. "Todd is a very underrated rider. Hopefully he'll run a lot more for me in the future."

Ex-groom making way as trainer

Jimmy Copeland had been a groom for 28 years when he became a trainer here last fall. He started with two runners, provided by Camilla Farms, and finished the season with one win and three seconds in 13 starts.

"I classify Bernie Ottaway and Phil England as my mentors," said Copeland, a Hamilton, Ontario, native who scored with April Blues ($14) here Monday. It was win No. 3 for Copeland in 2003. He has saddled just 10 runners this season.

Ardent Eddy triggers record payoff

A record $2 exactor payoff of $3,841.50 was produced in Monday's first race when Ardent Eddy ($132.70) triumphed under jockey Sean Deveaux in an 11-horse field. At 12-1, Evil Waters was second, and Scotty's Big Nite, at almost 5-1, was third. The triactor returned $17,505 for a $2 wager.

Jack Wilson, 83, trains Ardent Eddy, who was making his third start of the year.

Wilson said he was surprised his runner received such meager support. The 3-year-old colt started the season in a maiden special weight, and Wilson said the horse was dueling for the lead early in that one when he swallowed his tongue and dropped to last.

Then, when Ardent Eddy was lowered to $20,000 for his next start, Wilson said the horse "ran down" his heels. Monday's race was at the $10,000 level.

"The horse has such a nice stride," Wilson said. "And Deveaux is a good little rider. He tries hard, but if you don't get the right horses, it's hard to win."