05/15/2008 11:00PM

Small barn off to sharp beginning

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Better Than Bitter, trained by Allen Desruisseaux, ran away and hid opening day at Fort Erie, and Desruisseaux has since added a couple more to the win column in his first full-time year of training.

Desruisseaux, 49, has been involved with horses ever since his first $500 purchase won at first asking back in 1978.

He finally took out his trainer's license last year and immediately proved his potential by sending Better Than Bitter up to Woodbine to score in her debut effort last July.

This year, Desruisseaux has a stable of eight runners and is expecting to expand that number in the near future.

Desruisseaux, under the tutelage of trainer Danny Taylor for a number of years, had a long-term dream of training Thoroughbreds on a regular basis and finally decided that his time had arrived.

"We have a small farm in the area and started conditioning the horses back in January," said Desruisseaux.

"It's nice to get off to a good beginning, and so far that early start to training has paid off. I give full marks to our grooming crew and exercise riders, as they have made my job much easier.

"I am especially pleased with the work of Ian Alderson. He climbs aboard a number of our horses in the morning and he has them relaxed and well prepared."

Desruisseaux admitted to getting a special thrill when his filly Tough Cinelle won here last Monday.

"We bought her as a weanling off a troubled farm, and she was just skin and bones," he said.

"It took a while to bring her around, but we were so pleased to see a runner that was basically abandoned at one stage in her life make the races and break her maiden. She is undoubtedly the pet of the barn."

Owner Hugh Blackmore, whose mare Just Fine won at first asking this year for Desruisseaux, has others in the barn, and Centennial Farms, with a number of runners at Woodbine and a breeding operation near Vineland, has also been a welcome addition to the Desruisseaux shed row.

Beckon goes 4 for 6 on Monday

Chad Beckon, the meet's leading rider, won 4 of the 6 races he rode on Monday.

Beckon's last ride and win of the day, in the sixth race, came aboard Cusack, a last-minute pickup who surprisingly went wire to wire.

Cusack paid $26.80 and helped set off a single winning pick four ticket worth $7,193.

In two previous lifetime starts, Cusack had shown absolutely no speed and had raced well back throughout.

* Trainer Ron Thomson died last Sunday at the age of 76. Thomson trained horses at several North American tracks over a 50-year span, spending most of his time on the Ontario circuit.