05/05/2004 11:00PM

Make allowances for a talented new crew

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Five apprentice jockeys with 10-pound weight allowances got into action on opening day at the Fort last Saturday. None looked out of place.

Taking first, second, and fourth money, the newcomers dominated the first race, a maiden event with a full field of 12.

Happy Ando was aboard the 5 3/4-length winner, Straight Exchange. It was Ando's first win and his first try at the Fort. Graduating from exercising horses, he had 12 rides at Woodbine last year and five this spring.

Ando finished sixth on his other mount Saturday, Deputy Mary. The following day he was back in the winner's circle with King's Reception, his sole mount on the card.

Ando, 24, was born in Japan. His father owned racehorses. Before coming to Canada and Woodbine four years ago, Ando spent time at a school for jockeys in England.

Jennie Roche, 23, a native of Manitoba, was second on Ace in Place in the curtain-raiser.

Roche rode her first race last August at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg. Roche had been a groom there for four years.

Roche finished the Assiniboia meet with four wins in 39 start, plus eight seconds and eight thirds.

"Emile Corbel taught me how to ride," said Roche, who pointed out that the trainer was also a teacher to champion rider Todd Kabel early in his career.

Troy Hearn recovered from a bobble and rallied to be fourth with Ellie Q in the opener.

A native of Trinidad, Hearn, 23, was making his fifth lifetime start, having been winless in four attempts at Woodbine in 2002. A weight problem stalled his ambition to be a jockey.

"I do about 109 pounds now," said Roche, a son of a trainer in Trinidad. "I've followed my father's footsteps to horses."

In 1997, Hearn began work stints in the United States. "I used to go back and forth," he said. "I used to spend six months in New York, and six months in Miami. I've worked with Allen Jerkens and Christophe Clement."

Lisa Cadeddu, a 24-year-old native of Niagara Falls, Ontario, finished a rallying third in the five-furlong third race. Berry's a Smoking, a router, was only her fourth lifetime mount. Cadeddu had three also-rans at Tampa Bay.

Cadeddu's agent is former jockey Doug Gibbons, who left his job last year as assistant clerk of scales at Fort Erie. Gibbons led the rider standings at the Fort one year in the 1990's.

"She did well," said Gibbons. "The distance was too short for the horse, but she didn't panic when they were running away from her. She relaxed, waited for the turn, then asked for the horse to pick it up. And, it came charging at the end to pick up third money. The trainer was ecstatic. He would have been happy to beat one horse."

Jade Holmes finished fourth in the fourth race Saturday. It was her first race since 2002.

Holmes, who has now had 23 races under her belt, won three races in 2002. Her first score was at Fort Erie. The other two were at Woodbine.