10/13/2006 11:00PM

Race is over for Lenny the Lender


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Lenny the Lender is out of business. Old age has done him in.

Fort Erie-based Lenny the Lender, 10 years old and an earner of $539,491, has been retired. Home is now the nearby farm of his owner and trainer, Dick Jukosky, where there is a five-acre field to romp in.

"Lenny is at the farm, although I think he wants to be here. But he's not up to it," said Jukosky who is left with two runners, Wheaton's Joy and Get Down Wolfie. "He's got some aches and pains. I don't want to abuse him."

A longtime favorite, here and at Woodbine, Lenny the Lender has been winless almost for four years. His last visit to the winner's circle was Oct. 31, 2002.

Lenny the Lender finished last in his final start, the $125,000 Halton Stakes at Woodbine Sept. 4. And, he was off the board in his other three tries this year.

But through most of his win drought Lenny pulled his weight - and even carried the small stable - by placing in many long-distance turf stakes.

In 2003, Lenny the Lender earned $98,282, in 2004 $93,282, and last year $100,705.

Jukosky claimed Lenny the Lender for $7,500 on Oct. 27, 2001. He was a 5-year-old gelding who had three lifetime wins.

At 3, Lenny the Lender had shown much promise. As a two-time winner he was second in the Marine Stakes, and he followed that with a fourth-place finish in the Queen's Plate.

But it was 11 races and almost two years later that Lenny came up with his third lifetime win. It was in a $14,000 claimer at Fort Erie.

Lenny the Lender's most memorable performance was in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 2 Sky Classic at Woodbine in 2003. He was beaten a nose by American shipper Bowman Mill.

"Lenny took us to places we never expected," said Jukosky. "We never won any of the big races, but we had a lot of seconds. His last race was a struggle for him. I made up my mind, that was it."

In his 62-race career, Lenny the Lender registered 7 wins, 11 seconds, and 7 thirds.

Gonzalez looks to have edge for title

The battle for the title of top trainer at the Fort continues to be tight.

Heading into the past week, Nick Gonzalez, last year's top trainer, led Layne Giliforte by one. By week's end they were deadlocked with 27 scores each.

Giliforte, however, has stated that he doesn't have a whole lot of ammunition for the final three weeks of the meeting. Asked why he didn't become more active earlier in the meet, by claiming some runners, Giliforte had a reply.

"You have to be efficient. You can't do things for selfish reasons," said Giliforte. "I can't accumulate $4,000 horses just to win a training title and then be stuck with them at the end of the meet."

Giliforte does plan to play the claiming game seriously at the Tampa Bay meeting over the winter. He has applied for 20 stalls there.

"I'd like to claim a good handful," he said. "And bring them here. Tampa Bay horses do well here."