08/20/2003 11:00PM

Former local horse of the year Malcoha retired at age 11

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Malcoha, a fan favorite here for many years, will race no more.

A winner of his last start by just over six lengths July 22, the 11-year-old Malcoha ends his career with 24 wins from 106 starts and earnings of $414,151.

In 1998, Malcoha was named Fort Erie's horse of the year. Among his five scores that year were the Benburb and Puss N Boots Stakes.

Trainer Wilf Jones, who co-owns the horse with Tom Grimes, said that he felt further racing might aggravate Malcoha's ankles. The gelding won three of his seven starts this year.

"It's nice to be able to retire him relatively sound," said Jones, who claimed the runner early last year, "He's been such a wonderful horse to a lot of people. He hasn't been training quite so well in his last couple of gallops."

Jones said that a nearby farm has been found for Malcoha's retirement where he will become a riding horse "after he lets down."

Johnston is back, and winning

Marilyn Johnston, who stopped training last year after having only three wins from 44 starts, is back at it again.

Johnston, 31, sent out her first starter of the year Monday and won. The victor was Jealous Lover, a 5-year-old mare who had come under her care three weeks previously. The owner is F A Stable.

Johnston said F A Stable has just built a 38-stall barn on a nearby farm and will be very active in the claiming game.

Johnston and F A Stable claimed Gibbs Beach, from the barn of the track's leading trainer, Layne Giliforte, on Aug. 10.

Gibbs Beach "is a nice little horse that won his last two in a row for $5,000. I hope he continues," said Johnston, who now has four runners under her wing.

Johnston also expects a strong performance from Indeed I Do, who is soon to make her 2003 debut. The 6-year-old mare won her first start of last year, Aug. 25, which came after an absence of over a year.

Johnston is the daughter of Carlton Johnston, who was the leading trainer at Fort Erie in 1997 and 1998. She and her brother, Rob, served as assistants to their father those years.

Spill worse than first believed

Early reports after an ugly spill that involved three runners in Sunday's first race here indicated that the jockeys had escaped serious injury.

But none of the three - Tyrone Harding, Mike Quong, and Kelly MacKay - returned to ride on the rest of the program. Harding returned to action the following day, but Quong and MacKay are still off.

Quong has a fracture in a leg and MacKay sustained deep bruising and soft tissue damage to his right shoulder as well as a severe bruise to the side of her jaw. She also had a bad laceration on her right ear.