10/06/2005 12:00AM

Gonzalez applies for 25 Tampa Bay stalls


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Fort Erie leading trainer Nick Gonzalez has applied for 25 stalls for the winter meet at Tampa Bay Downs.

Rarely has Gonzalez competed down south during the Canadian off-season. If he gets his stalls, Gonzalez will fill them with runners from the Frank Stronach organization.

"We're thrilled with [Gonzalez] He's done great for us," said Mike Rogers, business manager of the racing operations of Stronach Stable. "He's got the kind of operation we like.

"Nick has been in it for about 25 years, and his help has been with him a lot of years. It's a great team. The horses come back from his barn in good shape."

Gonzalez appears to be headed toward his first trainer title. He stretched his lead in the standings here to six wins over second-place Lyle Morden in the past racing week.

Gonzalez, who developed and trained 2004 male juvenile Canadian champion Wholelottabourbon, has a split operation. Wife Martha looks after the runners at Woodbine.

The first Stronach runners arrived at Gonzalez's barn in mid-June. Since then Gonzalez has racked up 15 wins for his new client, 13 at Fort Erie and two at Woodbine.

Stronach Stable, with 29 wins, has a comfortable lead in the owner standings at Fort Erie. Next in line is Herbert W. Chambers with 20.

The other 16 Stronach wins here are split evenly between trainers Sean Smullen and Justin Nixon.

Lenny the Lender eyes Chief Bearhart

Lenny the Lender appeared happy to get back in his Fort Erie stall last Sunday evening. That afternoon he ran third in the $329,300 Sky Classic, a 1 3/8 mile, Grade 2 race at Woodbine. He had been vanned 100 miles to Woodbine that morning to race.

"When he went into his stall he rolled over on his back about four or five times," said owner-trainer Dick Jukosky.

"He came out of the race real good. This was the toughest race he ever ran. He lost by less than a length."

Lenny the Lender won't be going to the 1 1/2-mile, $2 million Pattison International at Woodbine Oct. 23.

"Lenny is 9 and I can't train him like those European horses," said Jukosky. "He can't handle that kind of training. We're going into the Chief Bearhart a week later. I want an easier spot to finish the year."

Fort Erie requests 2006 dates

Fort Erie has applied to the Ontario Racing Commission for 104 racing dates in 2006, a number similar to the current meet.

The meet would begin on Saturday, April 29 and end on Tuesday, Oct. 31.

There would be just two programs the first week, on Saturday and Sunday. The following week, Monday would be added, and Tuesdays would be added to the schedule beginning May 23.