07/30/2003 11:00PM

Streaking Pembroke Hall changes hands


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Pembroke Hall has been perfect for trainer David Schmidt this year.

Tuesday, the 6-year-old gelding scored his fifth win from as many starts. All of the wins came in two-furlong races. Pembroke Hall now has a string of six quarter-mile wins, having also won his final start in 2002.

Schmidt won't have a chance to continue the streak, however, since Pembroke Hall has been moved to another barn. Trainer Don MacRae claimed the runner for $21,000 for owner Darryl Jackson.

It was their second claim in two days. The same connections took Gino Molinaro's Storming on Merit from a win in a two-furlong race Monday for fillies and mares.

Storming on Merit, a 4-year-old filly, has won four of the five quarter-mile races carded for fillies this year.

The quarter-mile races are written at three-week intervals - one for males, one for females. They are $25,000 claimers run under "oddball" conditions - the weight is 125 pounds, with one pound allowed for each $1,000 down to a price of $6,000.

"They will have to sit on [Pembroke Hall] for six weeks [to run at two furlongs]," said Schmidt, referring to a mandatory rise of 25 percent in claiming price for a horse returning from a claim within 30 days. "There are no $26,000 claimers."

Schmidt won eight times with Pembroke Hall from 11 starts. He bought the runner privately for $12,000 for client Lucky Diluciano Stable. Pembroke Hall was a replacement for their successful female sprinter Many a Penny, who was lost for $14,000 after she won her first two starts last year.

MacRae, 27, shot into prominence in 2000 when he saddled Pecos Star to six consecutive wins, all at two furlongs. The trainer had claimed Pecos Star in September 1999 for $4,000.

MacRae finished 2000 with 16 wins, winning at a 25 percent clip. The following year he had 30 wins, winning at 28 percent. Last year, the corresponding numbers were 30 and 21.

Production has been off a little for MacRae this year. Going into Saturday, his runners have won 5 of 31 starts.

Villeneuve moves up in jock standings

Francine Villeneuve, with five wins last week, has climbed into fourth place in the jockey standings. Her 37 wins put her one behind Chris Griffith in third. Martin Ramirez tops the pack with 56 wins, a 12-win margin over Neil Poznansky.

Villeneuve, who is the winningest female rider in Canadian history, was aboard for all of Pembroke Hall's wins this year. "All I do with him is just hang on," she said.

Johnston easing back into action

Marilyn Johnston left the training ranks after having a mediocre year in 2002, with three wins in 44 starts.

"I needed a break," said the daughter of two-time Fort Erie leading trainer, Carlton Johnston. "My clients expected too much from the horses they gave me. I'm working on having a stable again."

Marilyn had seven wins (16 percent) in 2001 and nine (19 percent) in 2000.

Johnston had her dad saddle Premium Brew, a 6-year-old maiden she co-owns, here Tuesday. The runner finished first but was disqualified and placed seventh in the maiden special weight race on turf.

"It's the worst day of my life," Marilyn said. "I had him three years and he finally wins. The jock said he was lugging in. He never did that before. And he won so easy.

"He wasn't eligible for a stall here so we had to truck him back and forth from my dad's farm in Stevensville. He was wintered and trained there. We'll bring him right back. They won't beat him."