05/21/2001 12:00AM

Schmidt confident he won't be winless for long

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FORT ERIE, Ont. - Trainer David Schmidt, a fixture in the top 10 of the Fort Erie standings, is an uncharacteristic 0 for 8 as the track heads into its fourth weekend of racing.

"I've had good years, year after year," he said. "I'm just getting started. I haven't run an A-member horse yet. I've run the lower tier so far. If I'm not doing well by the end of May I'll be awful disappointed."

The barn's star, J and B's Nu Image, has picked up a win but it was at Finger Lakes. "I had a friend saddle her. She smoked. Won by seven and a half lengths. She's got it over those New York-breds."

Schmidt, 43, who finished third in the standings in 1999 while sporting a 29 percent win average said the 5-year-old J and B's Nu Image, is the best runner he has had. He claimed her July 12, 1999, for $7,500 from a non-winners-of-two-lifetime. She has won 11 of 16 since, earning $130,000.

Schmidt explains that he has never had the opportunity to work with really good horses. "I have to make something out of nothing a lot of times. But that's the fun of the game. There's a lot less pressure. I had another favorite, Barry Moonglow. I claimed him for $4,000 and he made me a lot of money."

When he was 12, Schmidt used to muck out stalls on a farm on weekends so he could ride horses. He got acquainted with Thoroughbreds while living on a 3,000-acre dairy farm.

"We used to sell hay to the feedman at Aqueduct and Belmont. My stepfather used to take me inside the track. One of his relatives was a trainer," said Schmidt, a native of Niagara Falls, N.Y.

After serving in the Marine Corps for three years where he rode in the mounted color guard, Schmidt made his way to the track with owner-trainer Henry Sloma. After working with him for a year he struck out on his own in 1983.

"I stepped out too soon," Schmidt admitted. "I didn't know enough. I fell flat on my face. I went the whole year, some 25 races, without winning once."

Regrouping, Schmidt connected with trainer Mike Luider and looked after a farm for him. He also got into the training of Standardbreds.

"I was in it for three years. I raced in Barrie, Flamboro, and Greenwood. I won lots of races, probably 25. I started to get the hint then. It was successful but financially devastating. Shipping out and back was costly."

The dues were paid. Schmidt feels fortunate that good times have rolled since.

While Schmidt has been slow off the mark this year, his friend and fellow trainer, Kim Dobson, is off to a quick start. Of the six horses she has saddled, two have won and two others have finished second.

* Dale Hemsley has left his position as assistant clerk of scales to return to the saddle again. "The purse money is good and I feel good. I just got to find some live mounts," he said.