05/16/2003 12:00AM

Scharfstein learns quickly

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - It didn't take long for 20-year-old Jillian Scharfstein, a 10-pound apprentice, to make her presence felt in Ontario.

Just two races, in fact.

Scharfstein, a native of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was licensed as an apprentice last August at Northlands Park in Edmonton. By season's end, she had recorded 3 wins from 45 starts.

While exercising horses during the winter, at Frank Stronach's Adena Springs South farm in Florida, Scharfstein was steered toward riding at Woodbine. Hooking up with agent Andy Bankuti, she got her first mount at Woodbine on May 7, finishing last with 53-1 Friend Forever Tuesday, Scharfstein journeyed to Fort Erie for her next assignment and scored with Pouring Rain ($15.10) in a maiden race for $10,000 claimers. A 5-year-old mare trained by Vince Tesoro, Pouring Rain had not hit the board in four lifetime attempts, three of which were at higher levels.

"She liked the mud," said Scharfstein. "And you couldn't ask for a better trip. She had an outside post and stayed out of trouble. Vince had her ready."

Scharfstein rode confidently. While racing wide she and Pouring Rain stalked the front-running favorite, Southern Diamond, and overcame a three-length deficit in midstretch to win by almost a length.

The performance, which was in the second race on the card, signals that Scharfstein is a quick learner.

"From watching the first race I noticed that the most experienced riders were going to the outside and avoiding the rail, so the outside was the place to be," she said. "I knew from studying the Form, and from my agent, that I had horse."

Scharfstein, who had never been on the mare before, said she got the mount when regular rider Gerry Olguin opted not to accompany Pouring Rain to the Fort. Olguin persuaded Tesoro to give the mount to the apprentice.

A Rash Inski has stakes potential

Second-year trainer Josh Robillard may have a stakes runner in his barn of 25 here, as he plans to nominate A Rash Inski to the Bridgeburg.

The Bridgeburg is part of the doubleheader that launches the Fort's stakes program June 15.

Last Sunday, Robillard shipped A Rash Inski to Woodbine and he won a $62,5000 claimer at 1 1/16 miles 3-year-olds.

A Rash Inski, then a maiden, was a $6,000 purchase at Oaklawn Park during a shopping spree last winter for clients Robert Elkins and David Hinkle.

Robillard took him to Mountaineer Park for a maiden special weight race. "We got beat a nose when the rider lost his whip at the head of the stretch," he said.

Two weeks later, in the same category, A Rash Inski won by 3 1/4 lengths. Then, in a tough allowance at Woodbine on April 26, A Rash Inski finished fifth.

"Scary thing is," said Robillard, "A Rash Inski is bred better for the turf. He hasn't been on it yet. There is no telling what kind of horse he can be."

Controversy over cancellation

The early cancellation of last Monday's racing program, because of high winds, drew criticism from some quarters here, especially when the winds died down around the time the first race was scheduled to be run.

Management asked the jockeys to vote hours before first post time regarding their availability for the card

"I can't understand why races are called off at 11 in the morning because it might be windy," said jockey agent Bill Lane. "Why can't we try and run the races? And if it is dangerous in any way then, by all means, cancel. It was the only 10-race card we had this year."

Herb HcGirr, director of racing, said, "We always want to ensure that our customers, as well as our simulcast partners, have sufficient notice that we won't be racing."