11/14/2003 1:00AM

Ashagio named best three times

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Ashagio was the big winner at Fort Erie's annual awards banquet Thursday, taking home honors as horse of the year, top distance male, and best claim of the 2003 meeting.

A 5-year-old gelding owned by his trainer, Daryl Ezra, and Russell Wintle, Ashagio was claimed from a win in his 2003 debut at Fort Erie on April 26.

Ashagio went on win 6 of his 13 subsequent starts at the meeting, adding four second-place finishes. He earned $128,583 on the year.

Other award winners included Storming on Merit, a 4-year-old filly who was 9 for 10 here in two-furlong races and got the nod over Pembroke Hall in the newly created category for dash specialists. Pembroke Hall, a 6-year-old gelding, was undefeated in six starts at the distance.

Elegant Hunter, winner of the Blazing Sevens Stakes, was the meeting's top male sprinter. Diablo's Peak was named top female sprinter, while Queen's Triomphe was the choice as female distance runner.

Come by Chance Stable swept the male and female turf categories with Brother Pat, trained by Lynn Simon, and Soon to Be Single, trained by Jim Day.

The top male claimer was King Newt, while Sea Way Lady was the top female claimer.

Others honored were Martin Ramirez, as leading jockey; Daniel Boudreau, leading apprentice jockey; Layne Giliforte, leading trainer; and Bruno Schickedanz, leading owner.