10/16/2009 12:00AM

Chocolateforlunch stakes claim as top horse


FORT ERIE, Ontario - The Fort Erie racing season is rapidly moving toward its closing day on Oct. 27.

A number of laurels will be passed out to the leading trainer and jockey, along with honors for categories such as Fort Erie's horse of the year.

Nick Gonzalez and Rui Pimentel have the leading trainer and rider honors all locked up, but the battle for top horse this season has settled on three runners.

One is Chocolateforlunch, a 5-year-old mare who has 5 wins in 6 tries at the meeting. The others are Cacouna, a 4-year-old gelding with six wins, and Spread the News, a 5-year-old gelding with five wins.

Chocolateforlunch, owned by Winter Road Racing Corp. and Barbara Lewis, has a lifetime record record of 9-5-3 from 28 starts. She has truly blossomed since moving to the care of Fort Erie trainer Butch Morden.

Her record of seven straight wins at the Fort, including five in a row this year, finally came to an end last Monday when Chocolateforlunch was hung five wide early and then dueled to midstretch before succumbing to stablemate Gaja.

Nonetheless, Chocolateforlunch looks to be the prime candidate for horse of the year here. In her run of five wins, she has won on dirt, on turf, and also came home the victor in the Fort Erie Slots Cup.

Prior to her latest, Chocolateforlunch had a long break between races and that may have cost her a sixth straight win.

"We entered, but the races just did not fill for her," Morden said. "We were forced to keeping her prepped through workouts. She is very honest and a pleasure to have in the barn. I lay some of the blame at my own feet for the recent loss as maybe the workout schedule could have been changed."

Morden, a perennial high-percentage trainer, could hardly be blamed for a five-wide trip ending in a good second-place finish. Different tactics may have resulted in a win, but Chocolateforlunch does not need to hang her head after a game try.

"You could tell she was down on herself after the race," said Morden, "but her spark has returned and maybe we can have her back for one more outing before the season rolls to an end."

The public, who definitely have a fondness for this gal, sure hope to see her again.

Cacouna has been on a roll ever since trainer Nick Gonzalez began sending him out to do business. This speedy guy has had 8 wins in 16 starts for the Gonzalez barn and had reeled off five straight wins before finally losing in the late stages last Tuesday.

Leading into the final furlong, Cacouna looked to be carving one more notch in his belt only to be denied just as the wire approached.

Owned by Hillbrook Farms, Cacouna recorded a number of his wins at the lower claiming levels, but no one has reached into the claiming box as this gelding is known to have a quirky personality. Cacouna has loads of talent and speed but is not the easiest horse to train.

Gonzalez, the track's leading trainer by a wide margin, has spotted him correctly in the claiming ranks, and with the proper handling he has certainly responded.

Spread the News may be the longshot in the race for top honors but has a solid record of 5 wins in 8 starts here this year, including a Cup victory.