06/22/2005 11:00PM

Harding with leaders in his 21st season

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Tyrone Harding is once again gaining prominence as a rider at Fort Erie.

As the Fort's racing week begins Saturday, Harding, a native of Trinidad, is fifth in the jockey standings with 15 wins, one behind Chris Griffith in fourth.

At the top of the standings are Chad Beckon and Francine Villeneuve with 31 wins each. Neil Poznansky is third with 21 victories.

Harding, 44, has been riding for 21 years. On April 1, 2002, he was injured when his mount flipped in the starting gate. Harding was sidelined for 4 1/2 months. He returned in mid-August that year and finished the season with 21 wins. Then he moved to Malaysia to try riding there.

"That set me back a little," said Harding. "I liked it and I didn't like it. I was away from my family for two and a half months."

Harding decided to stay at Fort Erie in 2003. "It was kind of hard getting back your clientele," he said, "but we've been working on it."

Harding won 38 races that year and 39 last year.

Harding's most memorable race was the Bison City Stakes in 1999, the second jewel of Canada's triple tiara, when he rode Synchronized to an upset win. Woodbine-based trainer Reade Baker thought he would have an edge that day by using a local rider.

Harding's most productive year was in 1996, when he won 65 races. He finished second in the rider standings to Doug Gibbons that year.

Trainer wins on second try

It didn't take long before new trainer David Burns, 51, made his presence felt at the Fort.

On Tuesday, Burns made it to the winner's circle with Super Woman, only the second runner he ever has saddled. The previous day, Burns sent out his first starter, Red Rock Native, to a third-place finish.

Burns is a former jockey who was out of the game for 10 years when he got the urge to return after an outing at the track last year.

"I went to Florida and bought a horse," said Burns, a Fort Erie, Ontario, native. "I thought I was going to ride, but my leg wouldn't hold out. So I said to heck with it, I'll get my trainer's license."

After passing his test at Tampa Bay Downs, Burns bought three more runners and arrived at Fort Erie in May. But it wasn't until this month that he was able to obtain an Ontario trainer's license.

Burns started his riding career here in 1976. After two years, he moved his tack to Western Canada where he rode at Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver over the years.

Before his return to racing, Burns was a finance manager for a Chrysler dealership.

* Le Cinquieme Essai heads a list of 20 horses nominated to the $100,000 Daryl Wells Sr. Memorial Stakes to be held on July 4. The 1 1/16-mile turf race is a supporting feature to the $250,000 Bison City Stakes.