08/10/2004 11:00PM

Roche taking her riding talent to Woodbine


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Apprentice rider Jennie Roche will be moving her tack to Woodbine when the Fort Erie meet ends on Labor Day, Sept. 6.

Roche, who is in sixth place in the Fort's standings with 38 wins, has caught the eye of Tom Patton, the high-profile agent who represents Jono Jones, who is currently second in the Woodbine standings. Jones is the regular rider of A Bit O'Gold, the winner of the Prince of Wales and the Breeders' Stakes.

"She looks good on a horse," said Patton of Roche, a 23-year-old Manitoba native. "She sits nice and still. She's patient, switches sticks, and has a very good clock in her head.

Patton also mentioned as a positive factors Roche's ability to tack light, at 104 pounds, and that "Apparently she's out at 5:30 every morning trying to get on horses."

Upon leaving high school, Roche became a caregiver for the elderly, but it wasn't her cup of tea. She went to Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg and groomed for four years.

Roche debuted as a rider there last August. By mid-September, she scored her fourth victory. It was her 39th start, and Roche put her career in park in order to make the most of her apprenticeship allowance.

At Fort Erie, May 1, Roche resumed riding. On May 9, she rode Blather Skite, owned by Mike Barkowski, to victory. It was win No. 5, and her apprenticeship began.

"I had been reluctant to use her," said Barkowski, who is the Fort's leading owner with 15 wins. "But after just a few races she really convinced me. Jennie's been part of the reason for my success as the leading owner - she's rode seven of my winners."

Dionne celebrates in style

Jockey Monique Dionne, 30, said that she couldn't have asked for a better birthday than she had on Sunday.

Dionne rode Anthonia ($38.80) to an upset victory in the $58,000 Golden Horseshoe. It was Dionne's first stakes win in Canada. She had won a stakes once before at Portland Meadows, where she has been riding in the winters.

For Dionne, who was selected as the Fort's top apprentice in 2001 when she tallied 26 times, it was just the second trip to the winner's circle this year. It was her 51st start of the meet.

"My parents and sisters were here," said Dionne. "The race couldn't have unfolded better. I was on the hedge the whole time, and my filly sat perfectly. And when a hole opened up, I asked her and she went through. She was real game."

Dionne had eight winners at Portland Meadows at her last stay.

A stakes for Kennedy

The win by Anthonia, on soft turf, was the first stakes score for trainer Denise Kennedy, 36, who trains the filly for owner Brian Van Arem, who also bred the horse.

Kennedy is the daughter of trainer John Kennedy, who has been in the business for 40 years, serving at the Fort, Finger Lakes, and Greenwood.

Denise Kennedy returned to training after taking off the 2003 season. In 2002 she had but two winners, from 17 starts. In 2001, she had six wins from 42 starts.

Anthonia was trying the turf for the first time on Sunday.

"I think she's much better on the grass than she showed," said Kennedy. "I could tell she was running a little guarded. She had lost a shoe. I'm looking forward to running her on firm turf."

That could happen in the 1 1/16-mile Centre Stage Anne, Sept. 6, on the final day of the meet.

* Because of a lack of interest, the $40,000 Queen City, scheduled for Aug. 22, has been canceled. There were just four nominations for the six-furlong in-house stakes restricted to fillies and mares with three starts at the 2004 meet.