05/21/2004 12:00AM

Simpson returns - and saddles a winner


FORT ERIE, Ontario - After an absence of eight years, trainer Debrah Simpson has returned to Fort Erie, where she started her career in 1982.

And Simpson, a native of St. Catharines, Ont., found quick success in her return. On Tuesday, she won with Thunder Rider in a $10,000 starter allowance.

Thunder Rider was the second horse she saddled at the meet. The first, My Wonderful, finished fifth after a slow beginning two days earlier.

Simpson arrived here from Tampa Bay Downs, where she ended the meet with 8 wins, 8 seconds, and 14 thirds from 50 starts for a 60 percent in-the-money average.

"I've brought [four] fit horses here," said Simpson, "and I have another four coming down from Cleveland. I'm looking to stay the whole meet. We decided not to go back to Delaware Park."

Simpson trains for Johnny Butler of Connecticut, a retired school teacher who specializes in claimers and runs them at several different tracks.

In October 2002, Simpson shipped Butler's Freeze Alert to Fort Erie and won a $10,000 starter allowance. The runner-up was Chris's Bad Boy, who went on to be named horse of the meet.

Last year, Simpson took Freeze Alert to Canterbury Park in Minnesota for the Claiming Crown. He finished second in the $141,000 Jewel, the feature of the six-race series. Freeze Alert is currently stabled at Suffolk Downs in Boston, but might yet join Simpson here.

At Tampa Bay, Simpson was aiming to run Thunder Rider in this year's Claiming Crown.

"Thunder Rider is a nice little horse," she said. "I was hoping to go with him to the Iron Horse [for horses that have started for a $5,000 claiming tag]. But I hooked a horse named Dry Ice at the Bay and couldn't beat him. There is no Dry Ice here."

Racing in Loescher's blood

Trainer Paula Loescher, who has two wins at the meet, is from a racing family.

She is the youngest of four children of 67-year-old trainer Bill Mackinnon who are in racing. Another of his daughters, Marlene, is a mutuels manager at Woodbine and is married to former jockey Marty Gibson, who is now an exercise rider for trainer Roger Attfield.

Mackinnon's sons, Scott and Brad, both train horses at Laurel Park in Maryland.

Scott was a jockey at Fort Erie for eight years before he turned to training. Brad is a steeplechase rider as well as a trainer.

Loescher, 39, got her trainer's license three years ago in mid-season. She had been an assistant to Dan Edwards.

With three inexpensive horses she finished that year with six in-the-money finishes, but was winless in her 35 starts. Loescher took the job as the stall-person here for the 2002 season.

Loescher returned to training last year and had better success.

"I bought Beau Ryder in October and won three races with him," she said. "And he had a second. I ran him twice this year and he has a win and a third."

Poznansky changes agents

Mike Langlais is the new agent for jockey Neil Poznansky.

Langlais got back into the business this year after a year's absence. He was working for Mickey Walls when that rider retired. At one time, Langlais handled the book of riding legend Sandy Hawley.

Scott Lane, 23, Poznansky's former agent, has returned to working with horses. He is employed by his uncle, Bobby Lane, who is looking after the Ross Armata runners at the Fort.

"Scott has a love and passion for the horses," said agent Bill Lane, who is also an uncle of Scott's. "He wants to be a trainer."