08/22/2002 11:00PM

Three in row Yatsko's goal in Peninsula


FORT ERIE, Ontario ? Yatsko, owned and trained by Ralph Biamonte, will be after his third consecutive stakes score on Sunday at Fort Erie in the rescheduled $60,000 Peninsula Stakes.

The seven-furlong turf event, for Canadian-breds who have started at least twice at the present meeting, was set to go last Tuesday, but that day's card was canceled after a soft area was discovered on the track surface.

All nine of the original runners are listed to compete. With the Puss N Boots Stakes scheduled on Sept. 2, it was thought some trainers might alter plans. Six of the Sunday runners, including Yatsko, are among the 40 nominations for the Puss N Boots.

The Puss N Boots, at 1 1/16 miles, is one of this track's most popular and talked-about events. A member of the winning party traditionally takes a dunk in the infield lake after the race.

A few decades ago Puss N Boots, en route to apparent victory in a stakes race here, abruptly went through an opening in the hedge and plunged into the lake. His handlers, including Hall of Fame trainer Frank Merrill Jr. scrambled into the water to retrieve the expensive animal.

Dobson picking up the pace

Kimberly Dobson, after a dozen years as a trainer, is starting to make waves.

Going into the weekend action she sits in 14th place in the trainer standings. She sports a 21 percent win average with 10 wins from 47 starts. She also has finished second 10 times. With 12 weeks to go at the meeting she is just one win shy of her 2001 total of 11.

In her first 10 years, Dobson, a riding teacher and a buyer and seller of primarily show horses had, by her estimate, won about 20 races. In 2000 she was shut out in 29 starts but had four seconds and nine thirds. In 1999 she had four wins and four thirds.

Dobson had been campaigning her own horses mostly and had but one client last year. She picked up a couple more over the winter and increased her operation to two people, hiring Evelyn Mercier as an assistant.

"It's the first time I had anyone work for me," said Dobson. "I think that's part of the reason for my success. I've had Evelyn since February. She was selected the track's groom of the year last year. The horses I don't get along with, she does."

Dobson currently has 12 horses. With the stall shortage at the track she has to rotate some on a farm. Under those circumstances she is laying low in the claiming game, even though her clients would love to go after more runners.

Dobson has nominated Ceramic to the Puss N Boots. An 8-year-old gelding, he has won three of his last four starts.

Lucky day, sort of

Francine Villeneuve rode three winners here last Saturday. She didn't win the following day when she went to Woodbine, but she considered it a very fortunate day nevertheless.

"I was working a horse in the morning," she explained. "It bolted to the outside fence and I was lucky to get it pulled up. In the afternoon I was riding head to head in the lead with a horse [McBuck] when he broke his leg. Fortunately he didn't fall."