10/13/2011 3:58PM

Fort Erie: Kirk Johnson takes lead in rider standings with nine days left


FORT ERIE, Ontario – The Fort Erie rider standings have a new leader as the meet nears its Nov. 1 closing date.

Jockey Kirk Johnson came on strong in September and has passed Krista Carignan, the leader through most of the Fort’s racing season.Carignan put away her tack last month for personal reasons.

When Carignan stopped riding she held a comfortable lead that gave her a slim chance to hold on for a second straight riding title. Her need was for the chasing riders in the title hunt to falter, but that has not happened and now a new battle looms for the riding title.

The current leaders among active riders are Johnson, with 52 wins; Chris Griffith, 49; and Real Simard, 48. Carignan finished her season with 49 wins.

◗ Francine Villeneuve, only four wins short of the 1,000 mark, was issued a three-day suspension which will include the upcoming Sunday and Monday cards here.

Villeneuve has a chance to achieve her goal before the final race of the meeting is in the books.

◗ In the trainer standings, Ross Armata continues to lead with 24 wins in 111 starts.

Armata, based at Woodbine, has credited his sub-trainer at the Fort, Ravendre (By) Ragunhath, with the good results.

Layne Giliforte, Nick Gonzalez, and Martin Drexler are chasing Armata in the standings.

Giliforte and Drexler are both having excellent seasons from a percentage standpoint and both have sent a limited number of runners to post.

Giliforte, in second place has 18 wins from 61 starters, an almost 30  percent win rate.

Drexler has 17 wins from 39 starters, a 43-percent mark. He is tied for third with Nick Gonzalez, who is 17 for 117.

◗ The winningest horse of the season is Kinstar with five scores in 10 outings.

Kinstar is being chased by a group of runners with four wins: Mr Henry Two U, who is 4 for 5; My Natalie, 4 for 6; Dark Continent, 4 for 7; Soar, 4 for 7; and Molinaro Rush, 4 for 10.

There are still nine days of Thoroughbred racing action left on the schedule.

◗ Quarter Horse racing is now in full swing at the Fort and last Saturday featured two $150,000-added affairs, the Ontario Jackpot Futurity and the Ontario Jackpot Derby.

The Futurity went to the filly Leanintoit.

Owned by Don Ito and partner Richard Wincikaby, trained by Don Reid, and ridden by Kim Ito, Leanintoit ($9.90) took command early and never looked back in the 350-yard dash.

The Derby trophy was taken by The Rare Corona ($7), a 3-year-old gelding owned by Hershel Cole, trained by Clint Crawford, and ridden by Tony Bennett.