06/08/2012 2:27PM

Fort Erie: Crawford doing well in first full season

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Jockey Juan Crawford came east from Manitoba last fall for a brief spell, found that Fort Erie provided an excellent opportunity for him, and decided to move his tack here this meet.

Crawford spent the previous two years riding mainly at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg while also spending some time at tracks in Western Canada.

Crawford’s timing looks suspect since last Tuesday the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which manages this border oval, announced the track’s closure as of Dec. 31, 2012.

“I knew that there was a possibility that the track would close once they shut down the local casino,” said Crawford, referring to the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s decision to remove the slot machines from the racetrack on April 30. “But my plans were already under way, and I am still confident that the move east will pay off.”

Crawford, 32, believes that he can make it anywhere if given a shot to be aboard competitive horses. He has not given up on a possible future career at Woodbine.

Crawford arrived fresh and ready to begin the Fort Erie season. He believes in being in top physical shape, which is emphasized by a rock-solid frame of around 110 pounds.

“On the scale I usually call out 115, tack included,” said Crawford. “I have no problem making weight and the thought of using the sweat box never enters my mind.”

Crawford, born in Barbados, began his riding career on the island in the 1990s.

“My most memorable year there came in 1998 when as an apprentice I took home the title of champion apprentice rider and at the same time won the overall title, beating all riders that season.”

The quality of riders originating in Barbados is notable with the list including jockeys such as Patrick Husbands, Quincy Welch, and Jono Jones. In his homeland, Crawford proved that he could match up with the likes of those riders.

“Anthony Husbands introduced me to the Fort last fall,” said Crawford, “I won two races in 11 tries and that helped me get established for this season.

“My goal is to get aboard as many runners as I can and to win the riding title.”

Currently Crawford is tied for third place in the standings, two behind leading rider Kirk Johnson.