07/09/2003 11:00PM

Staying close to home rewarding for Lauzon

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - Jack Lauzon picked up five victories last week at Fort Erie to leap from 13th to ninth place in the rider standings.

Born in nearby Welland, the 41-year-old Lauzon began his career in 1981 and now has accumulated more than $28 million in lifetime purse earnings from his 1,441 scores. He has captured the Queen's Plate twice, with Regal Intention in 1988 and Basqueian in 1994.

Three of the week's winners were on the special July 4 program. And the backers of "Jocko," as he is commonly known, were handsomely rewarded. The $2 win payoffs were $12.50 (Fool's Game), $51.20 (Executive Celtic), and $17.20 (Fever of Oneonine).

Despite having a decent year at Woodbine last year, where he had 29 victories and earnings of $1.3 million, Lauzon shifted his tack to Fort Erie.

"I'm here because I had a baby girl four months ago," said Lauzon, also a father of Joshua, 14. "It's time to slow down and enjoy life a little. I bought a house here six months ago. I want to enjoy what's left of my career."

Lauzon said he is fitter and stronger now than he has been in the last 15 years. Being naturally light, he doesn't have a weight problem.

Nor does he have a problem with his neck, except for some aching when it's cold and damp. In 1996, Lauzon suffered three fractures in his neck as a result of a bad spill while he was riding in the Portuguese colony of Macau.

At one point, he was paralyzed from the chest down. Three years and two operations later, he was back in the saddle again.

Lauzon is enjoying his associations with the "kids" at the track. Two of his scores helped propel Chris Tuttle, 27, into a second-place tie in the trainer standings.

"I'm riding a lot for him now," said Lauzon. "He likes to listen to one who is old and maybe wise."

Lauzon's agent is 23-year-old Scott Lane.

"I phoned him this spring when I found out that Tyler Gaskin was retiring due to weight problems," Lauzon said. "Scott had him and he did well for him.

"I think he'll turn out real good. He's learning real quick, too. It kind of helps him I've been in the business a long time."

Dionne breaks through

Jockey Monique Dionne entered the July 4 card winless in 50 starts but finally won when Texas Heat ($14.30) came off the pace to score by 2 3/4 lengths. It was one of four mounts on the day for Dionne, who had finished second in the first race aboard Great Executive.

The following day, win No. 2 arrived. Dionne was aboard Lindsey's Love ($10.10) for a wire-to-wire score, winning by four lengths.

"My horses have been running competitively," said Dionne, who was honored as the Fort's leading apprentice in 2001. "I have 7 seconds and 8 thirds. But it's definitely tougher to get good horses now. There are a lot more riders here."

Prince of Wales draws near

The Prince of Wales Festival begins Wednesday with a post position draw for next Sunday's $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of Canada's Triple Crown.

On Saturday there will be three stakes races, headed by the $125,000 Rainbow Connection. The other two are the Blazing Sevens and the Lauries Dancer, each for $60,000.

On Sunday, the Benburb and the Border Cup stakes will be supporting features for the Prince of Wales, the Fort's showpiece of the year.