05/21/2003 11:00PM

Barton looking for more rides

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Jake Barton, who won six stakes races at Woodbine last year, has now become a member of the Fort Erie rider colony.

Barton bought a house here last summer and had been commuting to Woodbine.

Barton said he had been riding only one or two a day at Woodbine. "It's a long way to drive for just that," he said. "I'm staying here to get more business. But I'll still go up to Toronto to ride some horses."

Barton, 35, had campaigned mostly in western Canada before making Woodbine his workplace in October 2000. In 2001, he had purse earnings there of $1,900,084. Last year, his mounts earned $2,106,180.

Barton, who began riding at age 16 at bush tracks in his native Utah, won last year's Plate Trial with Shaws Creek, but the pair finished sixth in the Queen's Plate three weeks later.

Pudge Brown, former Fort Erie racing secretary, is the rider's new agent and has booked five mounts for his client for Saturday. Barton has three wins from nine tries here so far, riding during Woodbine's dark days.

Espada moves north from Tampa Bay

There is another new face in the jocks' room: Jose Espada, 42, who hails from Puerto Rico.

Urged by trainer Ida Paquette, Espada came here from the Tampa Bay meet, where he had three wins.

Espada left Puerto Rico to run in the Boston Marathon 23 years ago. He was smitten by horses, began working at Belmont Park, and has since ridden at most of the Eastern tracks. At the Fort, he has scored once from 12 attempts.

Great Defender finds his footing

As a 3-year-old, Great Defender set a six-furlong track record of 1:08 at Woodbine Nov. 27, 1999. He didn't win another race until last month.

In his first visit here, the 7-year-old gelding won a $10,000 claimer by 6 1/4 lengths April 27. He ran the five furlongs in 57.59 seconds.

On Monday, Great Defender made it two in a row. Trainer Ross Armata said it looks like Great Defender, who has been plagued with foot problems, has found a new home.

"He'll be back here again for his next," said Armata, who is based at Woodbine. "He likes the track. It's giving."