09/10/2009 11:00PM

Carignan making best of her opportunities

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Krista Carignan has been around horses ever since she can remember, from riding bareback as a youngster to walking and grooming Thoroughbreds as a 13-year-old. By age 16, she was galloping horses and readying for her current role.

In 2006, at age 18, Carignan was licensed to ride in Saskatchewan and won her first race at Marquis Downs. The following year the young apprentice moved to the Alberta circuit where she won 39 races while riding at Stampede Park and Northlands Park. Then, in 2008, she took on a new challenge and moved east to Toronto, riding at Woodbine and Fort Erie.

"I just love being around horses, and ever since getting licensed three years ago, horse racing has been my whole life," said Carignan. "I particularly like coming down to the Fort as the atmosphere is so relaxed and the people are friendly and helpful."

Carignan, who lost her apprentice allowance last month, has been quietly building a following here and sports a record of 11 for 110. This year she has been aboard many Woodbine longshots, which have cut into her career win percentage. Two weekends ago she was aboard five runners at Wooodbine that had average odds of 77-1.

On Saturday afternoon of that weekend, she rode a 103-1 longshot in the third race at Woodbine and then proceeded to drive six hours to Mountaineer Park in West Virginia for her second ride of the day. Her mount there, Diamond Moon, the longest shot on the board, failed to fire.

"I have to keep thinking positive," said Carignan. "A week ago Sunday, I rode my first stakes race on the E.P. Taylor turf course at Woodbine. We went off at odds of 102-1 and faded after showing some early speed. Even so, my mount does have some talent and will definitely be competitive with the right company."

Carignan plans to continuing riding at both tracks for the rest of the season.

"My new agent, Doug Gibbons, was a former rider and agent at the Fort and is well respected," said Carigan. "Both of us are looking forward to a good fall season at Fort Erie and my intention is to be back here again next year."

Sandspit's connections take plunge

Two Cup races highlighted the Labor Day card at the Fort.

The 10-year-old gelding Sandspit, trained by Tony Alderson, came through for the second straight year to win the Puss n Boots. Sandspit came off a layoff and his backers watched him trail the large field for the first half-mile of the 1 1/16-mile turf race.

But Sandspit, ridden by Kirk Johnson, began to circle horses through the far turn and then finished off the last-to-first trip with an outside stretch rally. Both Alderson and Johnson willingly jumped into the infield lake as is the tradition with this event.

The 1 1/16-mile Labatt Cup was won by the 4-year-old filly Alkmene.