06/24/2011 2:01PM

Fort Erie: Apprentice Williams moves up in standings

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Apprentice Betty Jo Williams has been working hard since deciding two weeks ago to make Fort Erie her home base, and her efforts are paying off.

Williams won five races last week, boosting her win percentage to a meet-leading 24 percent and moving to sixth in the rider standings with nine wins.

Williams realizes she is a late-comer to the meet and has a challenge ahead. “I am very pleased with how it has been going of late,” said Williams, “and I just hope that my luck continues.”

“Luck” may not be the appropriate term. Williams, 21, has won on both turf and dirt with some well-timed rides, and luck did not play any part in those efforts.

“I have given myself a challenging goal for this season,” said Williams. “My aim is to finish third in the standings as a minimum. My agent, Kevin Buttigieg, is working hard on my behalf and I intend to do the same.”

Williams had her first experience aboard a horse at age 6 and has been interested in riding ever since.

“Mom and Dad were both involved with Thoroughbreds for as long as I can remember,” said Williams. “As a kid, I would bawl my head off if they tried to leave for the track without me. Thankfully, they gave in and took me along. I loved it.”

Williams will lose her five-pound apprentice allowance in September. She spent the early part of her apprenticeship at Mountaineer Park.

“My first win came in 2009 in my fourth career start aboard a runner named Wynning Card and then I came right back to win on my next mount. I won a couple more before heading to Florida to work with Mark Casse during the winter.”

Williams recognizes that her success is the result of guidance given by those around her.

“I have learned so much from Mark Casse and riders Chantal Sutherland and Patrick Husbands,” she said. “Chantal and I chat often. She is my mentor. Trainer Layne Giliforte has also been a booster and a friend.”

Williams currently has a 6-for-10 record with Giliforte at the Fort.

“I just want to win for those that have given me a chance,” she said. “My goal is to work as hard as I can and to win as many races as I can.”

Simms still leads trainer standings

The trainer standings have tightened up with John Simms still leading the field with nine wins. Close behind are Sam DiPasquale with an excellent 7-for-11 record and Layne Giliforte at 6 for 14.

◗ The upcoming holiday weekend features the Festival of Racing at the Fort. It begins on Saturday with a full Quarter Horse card.

Sunday and Monday will be mixed cards. A full Thoroughbred card on Tuesday rounds out the four-day Festival.