05/07/2003 11:00PM

Tough-luck loser Malcoha still going strong at age 11


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Malcoha, 11, showed no signs of advancing age in his loss by a neck on Tuesday to Alyswell, who shipped here from Woodbine. Malcoha and Alyswell, after a stretch-long duel, finished more than six lengths ahead of third-place finisher Tonkawa in Tuesday's third race.

Alyswell bumped Malcoha near the wire, and Malcoha's rider, Brian Bochinski, lodged an objection. Wilf Jones, Malcoha's trainer, was upset when the stewards dismissed the foul claim.

"The bump cost him," said Jones. "He never loses when it's a photo finish."

Malcoha, a fan favorite, was Fort Erie's horse of the year in 1998. Counting Tuesday's race, his lifetime earnings stand at $381,978. Jones claimed him in April last year, when he was running at the Tampa Bay Downs meet in Florida.

Malcoha won five races last year after going winless in 10 starts in 2001.

"I'm happy with him," said Jones. "I've had a lot of horses that perform well at 9 or 10 but when they hit 11 it's kind of a different story. He's right there - physically and mentally."

Another 11-year-old makes hay

Another 11-year-old gelding was prominent at the Fort on Monday. Cumberland Gap, who was purchased by trainer Chris Tuttle this spring, dead-heated with Pembroke Hall in the first two-furlong dash of the season.

It was Cumberland Gap's 30th lifetime win. He has started 129 times and has earned $283,610.

"He's still kicking and is sound as a dollar," said Tuttle's assistant, Chris Andreola. "In the mornings he's pretty nervous, but in the afternoon he's all business."

Schmidt favors two-furlong dashes

David Schmidt, who saddled Pembroke Hall, would like to see more two-furlong races carded. In the condition book there are usually two of those dashes written at three-week intervals, one for male runners and one for the females.

"I think they are great for the fans and for the horses," said Schmidt. "In our race there were five horses within half a length of one another at the wire. Some of the horses are limited in their condition and their speed. And it's been proven to be a good betting race."

Schmidt could be considered a specialist in this field. Since joining Schmidt's barn last summer, Pembroke Hall has run in seven two-furlong dashes and won three of them. He finished second three times and third once. Last year, the mare Many a Penny made three starts at the distance for Schmidt and responded with two wins and a second

"I don't look for two-furlong horses," said Schmidt. "I just end up getting them. I just try to put horses in places they can produce best."

As the third week of the meet begins on Saturday, Ashagio is the only runner to win twice in it so far. He also has the distinction of being the meet's first claimed horse to win right back for a new owner.

Trainer Daryl Ezra claimed Ashagio on opening day, April 26, for $7,500. The gelding won by a neck that day in a five-furlong race.

On Monday, Ashagio romped to a 5 1/2-length victory at six furlongs for a $12,000 tag.