08/27/2008 11:00PM

First win for 41-year-old rider


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jockey Devon Johnson, at the tender age of 41, rode his first winner in Monday's eighth race at Fort Erie.

Leaving the gate aboard trainer Norm Tomlinson's longshot His Little Dancer, Johnson settled his mount early. His Little Dancer went up between foes on the turn, took command in the stretch, and drew clear, paying $26.80 to win. His Little Dancer triggered a $226 exactor, a $5,924 triactor, and a $7,298 superfecta.

In his previous start, with Johnson in the saddle, His Little Dancer stumbled at the break while going off at 58-1 but still managed to finish third.

"I'm very pleased to see Johnson win that first race," said Tomlinson. "He gets on His Little Dancer in the mornings for me and has a knack of getting a horse to relax. He deserved the chance to ride and the win will be a confidence-builder for him."

Johnson, originally from Jamaica, arrived in Canada 17 years ago with the hopes of eventually becoming a jockey. But it was not until four years ago that Johnson became serious about his goal, and began exercising horses on a regular basis. He has waived his apprentice allowance and now has 28 rides under his belt, all but two of them at Fort Erie.

As an exercise rider, he has been helped along the way by Woodbine trainers Paul Attard and Laurie Silvera. His work ethic and his way with horses has been much appreciated, and Fort Erie trainers Tomlinson, Mike Osborne, Carol Stackwood, and Lee Beresford have given him a shot aboard a number of their runners.

"It was nice to get that first win," said Johnson, "and the other jocks were not too rough on me following the race. It was great to finally win one and I really appreciate the chance to ride that Norm and the other trainers have given me."

Commenting on the fact that Johnson is an apprentice without a weight allowance, steward Richard Grubb said: "Normally we consider the definition of an apprentice to be a rider with the allowance as they gain experience and eventually lose their bug. In Johnson's case, the apprenticeship is somewhat different as the weight factor does not come into play but from a job perspective he is, by definition, an apprentice."

Nasty Fever heads Cup probables

The Labor Day weekend here is highlighted by Monday's $27,500 Labatt Cup. Seventeen fillies and mares were nominated for the 1 1/16-mile race scheduled for the turf.

The race is restricted to horses who have started at Fort Erie three or more times in 2008.

Nasty Fever, trained by Nick Gonzalez and ridden by Chad Beckon, will be one of the favorites. In four starts this season here, Nasty Fever has won twice and placed twice.

* A tote malfunction prompted a refund of all fourth race wagers here Tuesday. The total pool for the race was $67,000. A pick three for races 2, 3 and 4 (4-6-all) paid $31.25.