11/07/2003 1:00AM

Ramirez a lock on top, and Giliforte nearly so


FORT ERIE, Ontario - With the track's season coming to an end on Tuesday, there is still a little suspense as to will finish atop most of Fort Erie's statistical standings.

Not so with the jockey race. Martin Ramirez has undoubtedly captured the jockeys' crown. With 120 victories heading into Saturday, he was 36 ahead of the runner-up, Francine Villeneuve.

Storming on Merit, a winner of 8 of her 9 starts, all two-furlong dashes, is the Fort's winningest runner. Next in line is Ashagio, who has seven wins. Both runners may get a start in before the meet is over.

Layne Giliforte appears to be headed toward his sixth consecutive trainers' title. With 52 victories, he leads Tom Agosti by two. Agosti has already shipped out most of his stable and doesn't have many bullets left.

Bruno Schickedanz is seeking a seventh consecutive owners' title, and leads the standings with 21 wins, two more than John Franks.

Giliforte, who trains for Franks, said the washout of last Monday's card here probably cost Franks the owner title. Franks runners were entered in four races, and two of them would have been heavy favorites, thought Giliforte.

"I had a very legitimate shot to at least tie him," said Giliforte. "It's frustrating. I thought I had him. Those races will likely not go."

Giliforte was pleased, however, to be on the verge of retaining the trainers' title after having made a shift from having predominantly a claiming operation.

"I went into this year thinking it wasn't possible to be leading trainer," said Giliforte. "My goal was to satisfy the owners that I have. They are top of the line and are what people work a lifetime to get."

Meanwhile, John Simms, who trains some of Schickedanz's runners, has also experienced frustration pertaining to the leading owners' title.

"I entered three runners for Bruno for Sunday," said Simms. "None of the races were a go. I'll have to try and jam them in at the end."

Simms will race at Tampa Bay Downs this winter - he was allotted nine stalls - but he won't be shipping yet.

"I'm still in business here," said Simms. "And I have some serious running to do. I'm taking 8 to 10 to Woodbine."

Among those headed for Woodbine are Roman Romance, Finnerty's Frolic, Cibo, and Original One.

Concessi finds right level

Trainer Armand Concessi has been slow coming around this year, but his two victories in the past week brought his production to 12, just one off his total in 2002.

"The main reason I was slow," said Concessi, "is because my horses were the higher claiming types and races for them didn't fill. Then they would have to run too high - over their head. Now, I have been dropping them and they have been winning."

Concessi will compete with four of his runners at Woodbine until the end of November and then pack it in until the spring.