05/28/2010 12:00AM

Carignan's winter work ethic paying off


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Krista Carignan, just a few days short of her 22nd birthday, has much to celebrate.

Heading into this week's action Carignan leads the rider standings here with 16 wins, well clear of rivals Rui Pimentel and Anthony Stephen, who both have nine wins.

Carignan, who last year spent time at both Woodbine and Fort Erie, decided to give this track her full attention for the 2010 meet.

"I began galloping horses at the Fort early this spring," said Carignan, "and I put in some very busy mornings through the month of April, going from barn to barn.

"That work schedule had a number of my runners well prepared for the opening of the meet. I am extremely pleased with the results to date and it feels great to be busy both in the mornings and during the races."

Last year Carignan rode a number of longshots, yet she still managed to score 20 times, with an 11 percent win rating and a positive return on investment.

Over the winter, the young rider headed to Florida where she galloped horses, while at the same time working on a program of strength and fitness at the gym.

"I came back to Canada feeling physically fit and with a very positive attitude, and it has made a difference," said Carignan.

Winning races, of course, helps solidify that atttude.

"Winning brings more confidence and there are times when I have felt like I was completely in a groove," said Carignan.

"Besides my fitness training this winter, I also worked on a mindset for race day. I like to relax as much as I can between mounts and focus only on the upcoming race."

Carignan has settled down in the town of Ridgeway, only a 10-minute drive from the track.

"I find it very relaxing in comparison to big-city life," said Carignan, "and I am fully energized when climbing aboard my first gallop of the morning at 6 a.m."

Part of Carignan's race preparations include developing a strategy for her mount.

"I try to analyze how the race will probably set up and work out a general strategy, but the game and tactics can change depending on the break," said Carignan. "You have to be prepared to adjust as things play out."

So far, it looks like the season is playing out just about right for the up-and-coming rider.

Surface plays part in track records

The Fort Erie surface has been very fast of late and two new track records were set last week.

On Sunday the 6-year-old Teacher Boyne, trained by Butch Morden and ridden by Melanie Pinto, posted a final time of 1:15.42 for 6 1/2 furlongs, breaking Muzledeck's 42-year-old record of 1:15.80.

On Monday, the 5-year-old Ghostly Concerto went wire to wire in a 4 1/2-furlong dash in a time of 51.35 seconds, breaking the record of 51.46 set just three weeks ago by Cacouna.

Mike Mehak was aboard the Chris Jolin-trained Ghostly Concerto, who upset the 3-5 favorite Melody of Gold.