10/16/2003 11:00PM

Villeneuve to wed blacksmith beau


FORT ERIE, Ontario - It's wedding bells for Francine Villeneuve after the meet ends here in November.

But it will be business as usual for Villeneuve, the winningest woman jockey ever in Canada, when racing resumes at the Fort in April. She would like to reach the 1,000-win plateau before she puts her tack away for good.

Going into Saturday's program, Villeneuve, a 39-year-old native of Ottawa, had 751 lifetime wins and purse earnings of $11,598,459. Next on the list of winningest women jockeys is Regina Sealock, who has 622 winners. Sealock also is based at Fort Erie.

Villeneuve is having a banner season. With 74 wins, she shares second place in the jockey standings with Neil Poznansky. Martin Ramirez, with 111, has a comfortable lead.

Villeneuve was sixth in the standings with 71 wins last year. In 2001, she was eighth with 48.

Bruce Anderson, a blacksmith who practices here in the summer and in Tampa Bay in the winter, is Villeneuve's fiance.

Agosti barn cuts back

Tom Agosti remains atop the trainer standings even though he has been downsizing his barn as the meet enters its final four weeks.

"We'll be sending some 30 horses to Florida for the winter," said Agosti. "We have sent 12 down there already, and another six will be leaving shortly. They're my better horses and my babies. The cheaper variety are still here."

Agosti said that 15 to 18 of the horses will race at Tampa Bay. The others will get the winter off and then be prepared in the spring for here.

Layne Giliforte, the leading trainer here for the past five years, trails Agosti by three wins.

Lenny the Lender goes north

Owner-trainer Dick Jukosky and his horse Lenny the Lender will be at Woodbine Sunday trying to win their first stakes. The race is the $108,000 Chief Bearhart Stakes over 1 1/4 miles of turf.

Lenny the Lender, claimed for $7,500 two years ago, came just a nose short of winning the Grade 2, 1 3/8-mile Sky Classic on Sept. 28 at Woodbine.

There was an inquiry after the race. The winner, Bowman Mill, had come in and bumped Lenny the Lender as Lenny the Lender attempted to pass inside. The stewards ruled the foul occurred just past the finish line.

Jukosky has appealed the decision. The appeal is not likely to be heard until early next year, according to Ed Hall, supervisor of Thoroughbred racing for the Ontario Racing Commission. A big backlog of cases is the reason for the delay.

Great Defender retired

Great Defender, who holds the six-furlong track record of 1:08 at Woodbine is finished with racing.

The 7-year-old gelding ran the last three races of his career at Fort Erie this summer and won them all. The last was on July 13, when he was clocked in 57.39 seconds for five furlongs in a $10,000 claimer.

Great Defender won 8 of 16 lifetime starts, earning $238,175 for his owner Bob Wilson of Burlington, Ontario. Ross Armata was his only trainer.

Great Defender was handed over to LongRun, a charitable organization. He will soon be offered for adoption.