05/31/2006 11:00PM

Schickedanz in his old spot


FORT ERIE, Ontario - For eight consecutive years, Bruno Schickedanz, a Toronto businessman, finished atop the Fort Erie owner standings.

The streak ended last year when the Stronach Stable made a runaway of the race with 38 victories. Schickedanz, with 14, checked in a distant fourth.

Tuesday afternoon, Schickedanz was once again in familiar territory. His horse Winning Headline won the opener, and Gaelic Terms took the nominal feature by almost seven lengths. The two victories put Schickedanz two ahead of the Six Brothers Stable, which has five wins.

Schickedanz is pleased with the Fort's format this year, which has put heavy emphasis on the lower claiming levels.

"The Woodbine guys aren't going to put a $20,000 horse in a Fort Erie race for $5,000," said Schickedanz. "Last year, Stronach cleaned up. It's more of a Fort Erie playing field now."

Schickedanz, who at the end of May was ranked sixth in North America for 2006 wins with 46, is going to step up his operation here.

Within a week, he intends to ship more than a dozen horses from various tracks to trainers Stacey Cooper and Mark Fournier.

"I've won races all over the map," said Schickedanz, an owner, breeder, and claimer. "Some were at Mountaineer, Charles Town, Penn National, and Arlington."

Five of Schickedanz's winners were saddled by Stacey Cooper, and the other two by Fournier. The trainers were chosen last summer.

"Stacey and her partner, Nick Mileni, are a great team," said Schickedanz. "And like a lot of my good trainers, she gets on her own horses.

"Mark doesn't ride, but he's a very dedicated, hard-working guy who knows his stuff. He did really well with Major Zee, who was a bad bleeder for many years. He managed to keep him together and did very well with him."

Fournier has recently claimed two runners for Schickedanz. One of them, What an Angel, will make her first start for her new connections in Saturday's sixth race.

Searchwell back a winner

Jockey Gilbert Searchwell had an auspicious return to the saddle on Tuesday. He scored with Dapper Dan, a 7-year-old maiden.

Dapper Dan, owned and trained by Roger Hasmatali, was making just his third lifetime start in the $5,000 claimer. The win mutuel was $58.

Searchwell, 58, was off for more than a year after injuring a knee when he was dumped from a horse he was exercising.

Searchwell, who first started to ride as a jockey in his native Jamaica when he was 15, has worked mostly as an exercise rider in these parts.

Searchwell said he has been working on Dapper Dan for four months. "I really liked him," he said. "I asked Hasmatali if I could ride him in the race."

* Weather permitting, turf racing returns to the Fort on Saturday. The first grass race is a one-mile claimer for $20,000 fillies and mares.