06/15/2006 11:00PM

New client gives Gonzalez a boost

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Phone to the ear, trainer Nick Gonzalez exited the winner's enclosure after the customary photo was taken here at Fort Erie on Tuesday.

"When you're winning, the phone is always ringing," said Gonzalez, after hanging up. "That was Team Valor. They wanted to know if I've got room for a couple of runners."

Gonzalez had just sent a Team Valor 3-year-old filly, Waveland, to score in a seven-furlong $25,000 claimer for maidens on the turf. It was the first win by Gonzalez for Team Valor.

Gonzalez got connected to Team Valor when the operation's Woodbine trainer, Mark Casse, gave him two fillies, including Waveland, to take with him to the winter meet at Tampa Bay.

"The other filly wasn't much, and she was claimed," said Gonzalez. "I appreciate the opportunity to train for such high-profile people, world renowned."

Small in stature, Waveland, a Woodman filly, was born prematurely, said Gonzalez. "But she is well bred, and she likes the turf," he said. "She really wants to go 1 1/8 miles or further."

The win was the second for Gonzalez in the past racing week, lifting him to second place in the standings, one behind Stacey Cooper's eight, heading into the weekend.

Gonzalez won the Fort's trainer title last year with 56 wins, 17 more than the runner-up, Lyle Morden.

Biamonte strikes again

On Tuesday, Ralph Biamonte, who has barns both at Woodbine and at the Fort, scored his third win from five tries at the meet.

The victor was odds-on favorite Manitoulin, who had just dropped from $20,000 company to the $7,500 level for nonwinners of two, and this in spite of recent strong Beyer Speed Figures.

For $32,000, Biamonte claimed Manitoulin, then a maiden, at Gulfstream in February. Manitoulin scored in his second try for his new owner, at Woodbine at the $25,000 level.

Manitoulin produced some anxious moments en route to his head triumph on Tuesday.

"We tried everything with him," said Biamonte. "What works is letting him do what he wants. If you fight him, you can't win."

Biamonte said that jockey, Rob King Jr. was confident of victory going down the backside. "But the horse is so common," Biamonte said. "He just stops. And then just when you think you're going to get nothing, he'll make a run again."

Back in Florida, the 2003 Eclipse Award-winning apprentice, Eddie Castro, had told Biamonte that he had never been on a horse as tough to ride as Manitoulin.

Adkins back in racing saddle

The jockey colony here had a new addition this spring. He is Tom Adkins, who returned to the saddle after an absence of over three years.

Adkins had soured on riding after competing at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg for 20 years. He was employed as a water technician in Manitoba before his love of horses lured him back to Fort Erie to work as an exercise rider.

Adkins, a Hamilton, Ontario, native, had spent much of his apprenticeship at the Fort before he headed west.

"Some old clients and buddies here talked me into riding again," said Adkins. "I rode for Heather Creath's husband years ago."

On Tuesday, Adkins won the first race with a Heather Creath trainee, Kentucky Lad, who paid $17.70. It was the fourth win for Adkins, who has had 23 mounts heading into the weekend action.