06/28/2006 11:00PM

Big screen, Elissa Blowe fine additions


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Racegoers at Fort Erie are giving a thumbs-up to recent changes at the track.

A large video display screen, 16 feet by 12 feet, has been installed on the infield tote board, and following a trend in play at other tracks, the paddock commentary is being hosted by a female broadcaster.

"Initially, there have been some minor problems with the size of fonts on the board," said Herb McGirr Sr., director of operations at Fort Erie. "But it should be straightened out by this weekend."

McGirr is generous with his praise for the Fort's new paddock personality, Elissa Blowe, who is a regular on Woodbine television, too. She has Woodbine's approval to do the Fort Erie gig on her days off.

"We're tickled pink to have her here," sad McGirr. "She's very knowledgeable, upbeat, and adds that personality touch - a consummate professional as far as I'm concerned. We would like to have her every day, but our season is limited."

Blowe, 29, said she is no stranger to a pitchfork. Her father, Don, drove Standardbreds for 30 years and her mother, Beth, was a trainer.

"I went to college and took broadcasting," said Blowe. "That was only a backup. I wanted to go to the racetrack, but my parents insisted on an education first."

Following a co-op placement at Woodbine in her final school year, Blowe was hired by the racetrack. Along the way she worked in media, then the racing office, and then was the assistant bookkeeper.

Blowe took two years off to start her own business. It is called Phase Two Thoroughbreds.

"It's a business that finds a second career for ex-racehorses," said Blowe. "It's my passion. I've sold over 250 horses off the track into show careers. I'm proud of that."

Two years ago, Blowe accepted the Woodbine TV offer. And she had no trouble taking on the Fort Erie chore.

"I'm up here anyway on all my days off, buying and selling horses," said Blowe.

Next on Blowe's agenda is a new business. "I'm having a clothing line come out, clothes for riding," she said. "It will be launched in a month."

Injured Rombis on the improve

There has been improvement in the condition of trainer Debbie Rombis, who was seriously injured June 3 when a horse reared and toppled onto her as she exited the sand ring at the Fort.

With her pelvis broken in three places and a tailbone fracture, Rombis underwent surgery at Hamilton General Hospital. There has been significant healing and it appears a second operation may not be necessary.

On Monday, Rombis was able to sit up for the first time in the hospital. Two days earlier her stable got its first win of this luckless year. The horse that broke the ice is Windfleur ($14.90); the win came in the stable's 22nd start.

Windfleur, a homebred, is also the horse that was responsible for Rombis's injuries.

Ken Albu, who has 10 of his own runners to train, is filling in as trainer for the nine Rombis horses at Fort Erie.

Concessi ends drought

Trainer Armand Concessi ended a long drought on Saturday when Fresh Thunder ($15.80) scored. It was Concessi's 52nd start of the year and his first win. Another win, with Multi Deed ($9.40), followed the next day.

"I've had a lot of bad luck and the condition book has been sad for me," said Concessi, who with 13 wins finished 13th in the standings last year.