09/26/2002 12:00AM

With the right rider, he's Cracker Jack

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer John Simms had trouble getting someone to ride Original One in the mornings when the gelding came into his barn in the spring of last year.

Original One, nicknamed Jack - he has one eye - was a 5-year-old maiden with 18 starts.

The horse had been kicked in the head by his dam as a weanling, leading to the loss of the eye, and also suffered from a bad back.

The combination of ailments caused Jack to develop a funny way of moving, because he always had his head cranked sideways.

"He looked so bad when he went out to exercise you wanted to close your eyes," said Simms. He knew that Original One had some talent because the horse had finished third, then second in his last two starts at Philadelphia.

"In spite of his problems, Jack, when he gets into the starting gate, blocks everything out. He can run," said Simms.

The first rider who took Jack to the gate had second thoughts and had him scratched at the gate. A second rode him cautiously from post 2 in a five-furlong sprint on the turf. Jack was just starting to run when he crossed the wire eighth.

Finally, Simms convinced jockey Lisa Hammett to take Original One on as a project. With Hammett at the controls, Original One won immediately and ended the 2001 season with five wins from nine starts with her aboard. The last three scores were at the $4,500 claiming level.

With Hammett on the sidelines with injuries, Original One was slow getting started in 2002.

In his first four starts, with three different riders in the saddle, he was winless.

Michael Quong took over and won a $7,000 claimer at first crack on him July 2. He followed with second-place finishes in two starter allowance races. Then, on Aug. 24, he captured a starter allowance for runners who had competed for $10,000 or lower.

Original One won the 1 1/16-mile race by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:43.43. It's still the fastest time of the year here at the distance. Original One is now a serious runner.

Although Original One finished fifth in a swiftly run sprint Sept. 8, he is one of 27 horses nominated for the Bridgeburg Stakes here Oct. 14.

Double trouble in doubleheader

Simms, 53, an ex-cop who moved to Fort Erie last year to further his new career, has two runners, Roman Romance and Northern Turnstone, nominated to the Memorial Stakes, which is the other half of the stakes doubleheader Oct. 14.

The Memorial is a sister stakes to the Bridgeburg. It is also at 1 1/16 miles but is restricted to fillies and mares and attracted 28 nominees. Both races are $55,000-added.

Salzman right on the money

Trainer John Salzman sent his son, Tim, from their Laurel base to saddle Right on the Line, a maiden in three starts, for the $14.50 upset win over Frankiefourfingers in the male Juvenile Stakes here Tuesday.

"Our horse was dead fit and Martin [Ramirez] rode a perfect race," said Tim Salzman. "The rail was dead and he stayed in the four path, which we thought would be the place to be."