05/07/2009 11:00PM

Opportunity knocks for Pimentel


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Chad Beckon, last year's leading rider by a good margin, has moved his tack to Woodbine, leaving the door wide open for the 2008 runner-up in the Fort Erie jockey colony, Rui Pimentel, to take command.

Pimentel won three races opening weekend last Saturday and Sunday and joined Sunny Singh and apprentice Mike Mehak at the top of the win column as those two riders also notched the hat trick.

Mehak, a 10-pound bug coming into opening day at the Fort, quickly proceeded to lose five pounds of that weight edge. He won three races on Saturday, bringing his win total to five, which means he had to ride with only a five-pound allowance on Sunday and through his apprenticeship.

In the trainer category, John Simms sent two runners to post and both came home with victories.

Daryl Ezra also won a couple on opening weekend. One of his runners, In Love in Seattle, was particularly impressive, winning by a wide margin.

For those handicappers who like to track the performance of trainers in the early part of the season, Robert Johnson is worthy of note. He sent four runners to post and all four hit the board, including one win.

Fair track for opener

A boisterous crowd arrived for Fort Erie's opening day last Saturday and the enthusiasm for the start of this border oval's 112th season was evident.

Following a resurfacing a few weeks back, the track surface was in excellent shape and received favorable comments from a number of riders and trainers. To some, a slight bias gave the outside runners a bit of an edge but overall it was the best horse that crossed the finish line in front.

The races over the weekend were run at 4 1/2 and five furlongs and a good mixture of closers and speedballs got the job done.

* The three-day racing weeks begin this Sunday and will continue throughout the year, with the only exception to the Sunday through Tuesday schedule being the July 4 weekend, when a Saturday will be added.

* The horse population continues to grow. There are now over 600 horses on the grounds, which should further assist the Fort's racing secretary, Tom Gostlin, in carding competitive fields as the sprints begin to stretch out.