11/06/2003 1:00AM

Shards of Silver exceeds expectations


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Rod Cone was as surprised as anyone when his runner Shards of Silver won the eighth race here Tuesday and paid $21.60.

The race, a starter allowance for runners who have competed for $14,000 or less since the end of 2001, was run at two miles and 70 yards, the longest distance on the Ontario circuit.

Cone had no intention of entering Shards of Silver in the race but changed his mind when Fort Erie director of racing Herb McGirr made a plea for additional entries. The marathon has become a tradition at Fort Erie.

"I didn't want to see the race not go," said Cone, who moved his operation to Fort Erie from Calgary in the fall of 2000. "I love these marathons. I won a few of them out West."

Cone thought Shards of Silver, who had run at only at the $5,000 level here in eight 2003 starts, was too cheap and the competition too tough. The initial plan was to run Shards of Silver in a nonwinners-of-two for $5,000 in this, the final week of the season.

"But I had to put him in, and he got lucky," said Cone. Shards of Silver won by 1 1/2 lengths in the field of six.

Before becoming a full-time trainer in 1988, Cone was a blacksmith for some 30 years, from Blue Bonnets, in Montreal, to Vancouver.

"I decided my back should have a rest," he said of switching to a training career. "I was fortunate to meet Cam Allard. He provided me with two derby winners in Alberta - Cozy Grey and A Fleets Dancer."

Shards of Silver's win was the eighth of the meet for Cone. He had six last year.

"I'm starting to get a few Ontario owners now," said Cone. "I'll definitely be back next year. It's the nicest track in Canada."

Lenny the Lender switches surfaces

Fort Erie-based Lenny the Lender, a tiger on the turf this year, will try the dirt at Woodbine Saturday.

"It's a 1 1/2-mile race," said owner-trainer Dick Jukosky. "If he handles the dirt and runs big I'll probably stay in Canada for the Valedictory. I've never raced across the border before and I'm nervous about it."

Lenny the Lender is nominated for the Grade 2 Red Smith Handicap at Aqueduct Nov. 22. The $150,000 stakes is at 1 3/8 miles over the turf.

Apprentice Sunny Singh will ride Lenny the Lender Saturday. Regular rider Chantel Sutherland will be a bridesmaid at a wedding.

Also entered in the Valedictory prep is Lil Personalitee, another Fort Erie-based runner. Lil Personalitee is trained by Myckie Neubauer, who is having her best season ever. Heading into Saturday, she has 29 wins at the Fort. Last year, she had 18.

Neubauer spent last winter in Florida - her first one there - but did not win any races with her handful of horses at Gulfstream. "The track surface didn't suit my runners," said Neubauer. "But the venture turned out good. We claimed a couple of horses that turned out great. And we learned a lot of things while there."

But Neubauer is taking a pass on Florida this winter. "It's been a great season, but a lot of work, a lot of slugging," she said. "We'll race at Woodbine till it's over, then rest."