05/27/2004 11:00PM

Woodbine gives Concessi edge


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Trainer Armand Concessi changed his pre-season training routine last year and dropped Woodbine as a spring-training site.

The daily 190-mile round trip from Fort Erie to Woodbine, to take advantage of Woodbine's earlier opening, was a little too taxing, Concessi thought. But the decision turned out to be costly.

"I was slow, very slow, to get going last year," Concessi said.

Normally a quick starter, he managed only one win out of 20 starts in the first month last year. In 2002, in roughly the same period, he had three wins in 15 starts.

"This year I went back to Woodbine and got my horses a little fitter a little quicker," he said.

And it is paying off. Going into Sunday, Concessi already had 3 wins and 6 seconds in 16 starts at the current Fort Erie meet.

Concessi's runners spent the winter at the Giliforte Training Centre at nearby Stevensville. In mid-February, he had them start training on a horse exerciser. In March, he shuttled them up Woodbine, and then in April to the Fort.

The star of Concessi's barn so far so far is Angel Wisdom. She has won two races at the Fort, and ran fifth in a tough optional claimer at Woodbine.

Orientalspringhope eyes Rose City

Saddling four winners from 17 starters, trainer Daniel Wills has had a decent start with his 12-horse outfit here

"We had horses with conditions - maidens, and non-winners of two," Wills said. "We started up in an arena in Ridgeway. We were there all winter. We did good off of it."

Wills ran his top runner, Orientalspringhope, at Woodbine Wednesday, in a $50,000 claimer with a field of eight. She finished fifth after trailing to midstretch. The rally brought her within a length of third. Not bad for an 8-year-old

"She's no spring chicken," said Wills. "She seems to be like her old self, but you never know."

Wills is pointing her to the six-furlong Rose City June 20. Formerly called the Centre Stage Anne, it's the third stakes on the Fort's calendar.

Wilson off to a fast start

Campbell Wilson, with 4 wins from 11 starts, is catching horseplayers' attention. Last year, at this stage, he was 3 for 11.

Wilson, 28, spends most of the off-season in the U.S.

"I went to Charles Town in December and January," said Wilson. "I won two races from five starts. Then I went on a working holiday to California and came back here in the middle of February."

Wilson, a respected exercise rider, took out his trainer's license in the fall of 2001. He had worked five years with the Fort's leading trainer, Layne Giliforte, and also worked for trainers Justin Nixon and Chris Tuttle.

Wilson, who joined the track life straight from high school, has always been adventuresome, and his riding skills led to winter employment over the years with trainers in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Florida, and Arkansas. His latest gig was at San Louis Rey training center in California.

"My [local] owners had horses at an indoor arena in Ridgeway. I hated it, but it worked," said Wilson. " I'd rather be at a track. I don't like indoor arenas or wintering in Canada."

Wilson saddled 9 winners from 39 starters in 2002. Last year he won 13 races from starters.