06/18/2009 11:00PM

Ezra credits early preparations for fast start

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Daryl Ezra is comfortably settled back in his regular Fort Erie shed row, just inside the backstretch gate.

Ezra and his wife, Michelle, work hard to keep the row spotless while sprinkling it with an assortment of flowers to brighten up the scene.

Their 12-stall barn is off to a solid beginning, with a 37 percent win rate through the first six weeks of the Fort Erie meet. Ezra leads all trainers with 12 wins.

"We began preparing for this year by legging up our horses back in December," Ezra said.

"The farm has an Equicizer, which had them jogging and putting in miles before we moved to the arena in January. Then it was off to Woodbine in mid-February to continue the process and when the season opened here, our horses were well prepared and conditioned to begin the meet."

Ezra, 44, has been in the racing game ever since he arrived at Woodbine in the mid-1980s, and after a few years in the big city, he moved on to Fort Erie. He has spent the last 19 years training Thoroughbreds at this border oval while helping Michelle raise four children, a dog, and three cats.

"We have had some success at Woodbine over the years," he said, "but this is our home, and we like the relaxed atmosphere for our family and the horses. It costs a little more to send a runner over to Woodbine for a race, but when you consider the day rate at each track, the savings can be considerable in the long run."

Many trainers throw a rider up without any instructions, but Ezra takes the approach that a little guidance can go a long way.

"One thing I do is to check out the track bias, and if one exists then I let the jockey know the preferable path to be on," he said. "Of course, the pattern of the race can restrict a rider from getting to the ideal path, but when the opportunity is there, it can make that little difference that can mean so much in the final result."

Commenting on his good percentage this spring, Ezra said: "The track has been deep, but our horses were in shape to handle it. We are running them where they belong, and it has helped a lot.

"If a runner is in over his head, even slightly, then a minor share of the purse occurs, but when spotted correctly that same horse can hit the winner's circle and winning is the name of the game. Luck also has a hand in a number of races, and on a few occasions this year it has been on our side."

* Greater Piece, a Chris Vella-trained 4-year-old gelding with Kris Robinson aboard, surprised more than a few people when he came from off the pace to score in Tuesday's 1 1/16-mile turf event for an $81.40 payoff. The longshot winner headed a $7,512 trifecta payout and limited the pick four to 3 of 4, which paid $638.

* Lyle Morden and rider Eldrich Lindsay combined to bring home two good-priced winners last Saturday, and the Morden barn continues to maintain a high percentage with limited runners. To date, Morden has won with 7 of 19 starters.