04/02/2009 12:00AM

Kabel vows to regain his good form

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Todd Kabel is back, and vows that he is ready to make up for what was essentially a lost year in 2008.

Kabel's quest will begin on Saturday, the opening day of Woodbine's 167-day meeting, when he has mounts in five of the 10 races.

"My body's never felt so good," said Kabel, 43, who won a Sovereign Award in 1986 as Canada's outstanding apprentice and added four straight as outstanding jockey from 2003 through 2006.

"I've never had an ache anywhere lately. Hopefully, by opening weekend, I can tack 120 and I'll be happy. I'm not going to force it off; it has to come off normally."

Kabel's ongoing battle with weight became increasingly evident in 2007, when he had just 341 mounts at Woodbine but still won 50 races for earnings of more than $4.1 million before packing it up with three weeks left in the meeting.

Last year, however, took on a nightmarish quality as Kabel delayed his return before finally getting back into action in late June only to go home again after riding 4 winners from 53 mounts during a six-week span.

"Last year I was feeling sour," said Kabel. "I couldn't handle my weight - one day I'd be 116 and the next day I'd be 126.

"I was aching everywhere. My throat was burning from the acid reflux, after throwing up all those years. I couldn't sleep at night, my throat was so sore. I made a healthy decision."

Kabel's absence from racing for the balance of the season was all-inclusive.

"I didn't even watch a race," said Kabel. "I couldn't; it would have bothered me too much. I just worked around my yard, puttered around, did my own thing. I always knew I was coming back this year."

In February, Kabel headed to Florida with the intention of galloping horses in preparation for Woodbine's opening.

"I got on horses one day but I was really out of shape," said Kabel. "So I started working out and hitting the box at my aunt's place in West Palm Beach."

Returning to Woodbine earlier this month, Kabel found himself in need of a new agent when John Bell elected to focus his efforts on behalf of Chantal Sutherland, for whom he had booked mounts since midway through the 2007 meeting.

Bell and Kabel, who had been together for 20 years, parted on good terms and Kabel sought out another veteran agent in John Calleja.

"I told him, straight up, that I'm going for leading rider," said Kabel. "You've got to have a goal."

Meanwhile, Bell will have his hands full with Sutherland, who was scheduled to be back in Toronto late Thursday after concluding her Santa Anita campaign on Wednesday with a total of 18 winners.

Sutherland has seven mounts on the opening-day program, the most for any rider on the card.

Northlands apprentice moves east

Apprentice jockey Krista Carignan, who moved here last fall following the conclusion of the Northlands meeting, plans to make Woodbine her permanent base this season and will benefit from her five-pound weight allowance through Aug. 6.

"I'm just happy to be here, to learn and to ride some of the best horses in Canada," said Carignan, who began her career at Saskatchewan's Marquis Downs in 2006.

Carignan, 20, rode four winners at Woodbine and two races at Fort Erie during her introduction to Ontario racing. She has two mounts on Saturday's card.

"I got to ride some horses, won a few races, and got to meet a lot of people," said Carignan, who went to Payson Park immediately after the end of the 2008 Woodbine meeting and spent the winter there galloping horses for trainer Mac Benson.

Carignan is represented by agent Alan Raymond, who also books mounts for journeyman Justin Stein.

Martin Ramirez, who had been with Raymond for the past four years after moving here from Fort Erie, has moved his tack to Macao.

Ramirez, a 44-year-old native of Tijuana, Mexico, saw limited action at the current Gulfstream meeting but compiled a record of 2-1-1 from just 5 mounts.

Last year, Ramirez won 13 races at Woodbine and 14 at Fort Erie.

Fort Erie's top rider relocates

Chad Beckon, who was Fort Erie's leading rider last year with 85 wins and earnings of more than $1 million, plans to ply his trade at Woodbine this year and has three mounts on the opening-day program.

Beckon, 28, began his career here in 2003 but has made Fort Erie his base since 2004, when he rode 101 winners to lead the standings.

Tony Esposito, who also represents journeyman Jerry Baird, is Beckon's new agent.

Husbands can ride during appeal

Journeyman Simon Husbands will be allowed to ride pending the disposition of his appeal of a one-year suspension issued last Dec. 7.

An Ontario Racing Commission tribunal heard the appeal this past Monday and Tuesday and will be studying written submissions from the commission and defense lawyers before making its decision.

The stewards had cited Husbands for an "unsatisfactory ride" on Bug's Boy, the second-place finisher in the third race last Nov. 30. Their written ruling stated that Husbands "did not persevere with his mount throughout the race or demonstrate an effort to ensure the best and fastest race of which his mount was capable."

Somsanith will serve days now

Journeyman Na Somsanith will sit out the first three days of the meeting due to a suspension issued last fall.

Somsanith, 41, rebounded from a couple of disappointing campaigns last year to win 30 races and purses of more than $1.2 million.

He has made several trips to Pennsylvania this winter, fashioning a 2-4-2 record from 17 mounts at Philadelphia Park and a 1-0-1 mark from 3 outings at Penn National.

* Jim Mazur will host a handicapping seminar beginning at 11 a.m. here Saturday on the third floor of the Woodbine grandstand, and will be at the Greenwood teletheatre for another session beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Sunday.

* Woodbine will host its annual Community Day on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. Representatives from local service and charitable groups will be on hand and there will be a food collection of non-perishable items for Ernestine's Women's Shelter.