05/19/2007 12:00AM

Winter racing has given Quaranta an edge


FORT ERIE, Ontario - After the initial two weeks of the Fort Erie meeting, Ralph Quaranta and John Simms are tied atop the trainer standings with identical records of three wins and a third from seven starts.

Both raced during the off-season. Quaranta competed at Chicago's Hawthorne Park, while Simms did his business at Tampa Bay Downs.

Quaranta arrived at Hawthorne on Oct. 4. With 15 horses, he scored nine times by the meet's end on Jan. 1. He went back Feb. 23 when Hawthorne opened a new meeting, but was blanked.

"I had a lot of seconds and thirds," Quaranta said. "We're doing good now because my horses are fit."

Quaranta, 55, suffered a mild heart attack Nov. 22 and passed most duties to his wife, Deborah.

"She's got the brunt of everything and I stay away from all the pressure," Quaranta said. "She has an assistant trainer license. I just oversee everything now."

In the Quaranta barn there are 10 runners, plus potentially more on the property of his main client, Colebrook Farms.

Simon starts meeting strong

Lynn Simon is one trainer who has had a quick start without the benefit of winter racing.

Simon has tallied twice from her four starts. Mountain Stroll, at 17-1, won on opening day for her. A week later, Girl Watcher, at 13-1, dead-heated for a win.

Simon has nine horses, mostly family-owned, basically by her and her father.

With the Fort not open for training until March 25, Simon began the season at Woodbine.

"We went to Woodbine the beginning of March until the first week of April," Simon said. "Then we shipped here. It would have been too hard to get the horses ready from just the farm to here."

Simon had a high profile here in 2000 and 2001 when she was the go-to person for the lesser Frank Stronach runners.

"Those days for me are gone," Simon said. "I no longer want to have big numbers like the 22 to 25 I had."

Simon had 7 wins last year from 41 starts.

"We had some young ones last year, not quite ready," said Simon, a Buffalo, N.Y., native. "They will soon be ready."

The prospective first-time starters are fillies, She's Tweeking and Miss Quito.

Stormy Day gives Taylor first winner

Trainer Daniel Taylor saddled his first winner of the meeting, Stormy Day, on Tuesday. Taylor has had seven starts.

Last year, Taylor had an eye-opening start with 5 wins from his first 12 starters.

"My horses are getting there," Taylor said. "I kind of split my stable. I've got some at Cleveland and some here."

Taylor was lavish in his praise for the ride Cory Clark gave the 8-year-old Stormy Day in the come-from-behind win. Clark is the daughter of Woodbine jockey David Clark, who has twice won the Queen's Plate.

"Cory's ride was absolutely excellent," Taylor said. He added that Stormy Day "just doesn't want to win. He's a seconditis kid."

Cory "has really learned a lot from her dad," he said.

Cory Clark finished second to Robbie King Jr. in the Fort Erie jockey standings last year.