06/25/2010 12:00AM

Villenueve appears back in best form


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Francine Villeneuve returned to the racing game at Fort Erie this spring after a three-year break. She has 945 wins and is on her way to hitting 1,000.

"I'm glad to be back," said Villeneuve, who stopped riding in 2006 after a 51-win season at Fort Erie. "I just needed a break from racing, and now that is behind me my goal this year is to keep winning as I work towards the 1,000 mark.

It took Villanueve a while to get going on her comeback, but her four-win day on June 15 seemed to spark her.

"This spring I thought I was in shape right from the start, but things really didn't come together as quickly as I would have liked," she said. "My six wins on a mid-June weekend, with four in one day, told me that I was back on my best game."

Villeneuve is tied for sixth in the jockey standings. The 45-year-old rider recognizes that you have to have the horse under you, and she credits her wins to the trainers that have provided the opportunity.

"There are times when things just come together, and when you have four wins in one day, you literally feel the positive vibes that come with success," Villeneuve said. "I am looking forward to the rest of the season."

In 2004, Villeneuve was the first female rider to be voted the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award for significant contributions to the sport.

Mike Fox may improve in next race

Mike Fox, the 2007 Queen's Plate winner, was beaten here on June 1, but he looks back on his game for his next race.

Mike Fox, owned and bred by Firestone Farm, was shipped down from Woodbine by trainer David Bell. He was sent out for a work by local trainer Ralph Quaranta here 10 days after his loss, and sizzled in 59.80 seconds in the best five furlongs of the day.

* One of the largest crowds in years attended Fort Erie last Sunday for Father's Day.

As one older patron commented: "It was great to see so many people enjoying a day at the races. It just goes to prove that the fans are out there and they can certainly add an exciting atmosphere with their cheering and hollering."