07/12/2001 11:00PM

The name is new, but outfit's familiar

Email

FORT ERIE, Ont. - Daniel Wills, who is in seventh-place in the Fort Erie trainers standing, may be unfamiliar to horseplayers in general. After all, his name appeared in the past performances for the first time in the latter part of last year.

He has, however, been training longer than that. He is the husband of trainer Jeanne Ryan, who took time off to have a baby last year. The duo had operated under her name.

Wills, 42, emigrated from England to Toronto 17 years ago. He was an exercise rider and went to work at Gardiner Farms, a training and breeding center north of Toronto. At the same time, for some five years, he worked weekends for Woodbine trainer Sid Attard before going with him full-time for 10 years.

Five races were won under the Ryan banner last year. So far this year, going into Saturday, there have been nine scores. "We had seven horses last year," said Wills. "Now we have 14. They've been running good. I have runners with conditions non-winners of two and non-winners of three, that kind of thing. I don't really have too many older horses that have to slug it out in open company."

What Wills does have in his barn is two tough 5-year-old mares. Perfectlydelicious finished second in the Center Stage Anne Stakes July 1, and Orientalspringhope has won both her allowance races this year. The two are targeted to run in the $50,000 Border Cup Stakes on the Prince of Wales card, July 22. Perfectlydelicious won that race last year. Armand Concessi trained her at the time.

Although Wills and Ryan are from the Toronto area, they are happy to restrict their racing to Fort Erie. "The pots are big enough now that you shouldn't have to ship. And they supply the stalls so you want to help the meet go," said Wills who bought a house in the area last year. "Fort Erie is clean and cheap to live in. And there are all kinds of things going on here.

"Since I was 13, I never once thought I was doing the wrong thing. I've always enjoyed horses and the game - every minute of it - whether it was just galloping or grooming or whatever. I get on all the horses. I do the training side of things. Jeanne has always run the barn, the feeding, and that kind of thing. And it has worked out good."

Fast track

The track has been yielding quick times of late. On Sunday, Rebuffed ran six furlongs in 1:09.2 just two-fifths off the 1984 track record by Jolly Mariner.

Competing in a starter allowance race for runners that have run for $5,000 or less, Rebuffed recorded the fastest time for a six-furlong race since 1993. A 6-year-old gelding, he covered the first five furlongs in 56.3 seconds. That's the track record for the distance.

There will be racing at Fort Erie on Wednesday. It's the second of five mid-week programs scheduled for the peak months of July and August. Racing will be held on every second Wednesday. The first was July 4.