10/17/2002 11:00PM

Nixon to join Stronach Stable in U.S.

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Justin Nixon, who has a 31 percent win rate (13 wins in 42 starts) here this year, is leaving Fort Erie for a position with Stronach Stable in the United States.

Mike Rogers, business manager of the racing operations of Stronach Stable, said that Nixon, 33, has signed a contract to become a member of the Frank Stronach team and will begin his new duties Nov. 1.

"Nixon is going to our farm in Florida to run a barn there," said Rogers.

"There are about 250 horses in training there and he will work under the guidance of [head trainer] Danny Vella. If everything works out he'll get a string of horses to train for us in Maryland. We are going to have a big presence in Pimlico next year."

Rogers said that Nixon, who graduated from the University of Guelph, Ontario, with a degree in agriculture, scored highly in a personal interview with Stronach.

Nixon grew up on a farm near Windsor, Ontario, where his father usually had four or five Standardbreds. He had raced trotters at Windsor Raceway before going to the university, and switched over to Thoroughbreds at age 25.

Nixon had considered continuing his education but his strong love of horses steered him to a training career. Last year was his best in terms of number of wins; he saddled 18 winners and had earnings of $261,897.

Divine Luck 'on top of the world'

Layne Giliforte has nominated Bridgeburg Stakes winner Divine Luck to the $150,000 Woodbine Slots Cup, a Grade 3 handicap over 1 1/16 miles at Woodbine Nov. 9.

"Divine Luck is on top of the world right now," said Giliforte, who trains the horse for John Franks of Louisiana. "He seems to be thriving on his present campaign and is getting more aggressive with each race he runs. He is really sound and healthy."

Back at the barn after the Bridgeburg, Divine Luck showed no signs that he had been in a race, Giliforte said.

Meanwhile, Foolish Kiss, the John Franks filly that Giliforte sent out to a second-place finish in the Memorial Stakes on the same program as the Bridgeburg, appears worn down. She will likely be put away for the year.

"She doesn't have very good conformation and isn't the smoothest mover," Giliforte said. "She clips her legs and comes up with bruises."

Northernprospector aids Rideout

For 28-year-old trainer Shawn Rideout, the Bridgeburg was special. It was his first stakes race as a trainer.

He sent out 24-1 longshot Northernprospector, who finished third, for owner Gaspare Sanci.

Rideout was ready to quit the business last fall. He was working for another trainer when along came Sanci, who convinced him to train two horses for him, Northernprospector and Fleet Deed.

"Northernprospector kept me in the game. He's 9, an old warrior who has won twice for me," said Rideout. Northernprospector has lifetime earnings of $653,552.

Rideout has four wins at Fort Erie this year from 43 starts. He now has seven horses that he says are ready to run and gallops all his own runners.