02/21/2007 12:00AM

Fewer dates, smaller purses in '07


TORONTO, Ontario - Fort Erie will offer a reduced number of racing days and purse structure this year, as well as a streamlined stakes and "cup" race schedule for its 84-day meeting.

With the Bison City Stakes relocating to Woodbine, Fort Erie will offer only four added-money events in 2007.

Topping the schedule is the $500,000 Prince of Wales, the 1 3/16-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds that is the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown.

The Prince of Wales will be run on Sunday, July 15, along with both the Ernie Samuel Memorial and Daryl Wells Memorial stakes.

"We'll try and make the Prince of Wales an even bigger day," said Tom Gostlin, Fort Erie's racing secretary, noting that the Wells Memorial previously had been a supporting feature to the Bison City.

The Samuel Memorial and Wells Memorial, which were worth $75,000 and run over 1 1/16 miles of turf last year, are $50,000 five-furlong turf races this year.

"We decided we'd draw better at five furlongs on the grass," said Gostlin.

Fort Erie's only other stakes race, the $125,000 Rainbow Connection, has been moved back four weeks to Aug. 19.

The cup races are restricted to horses with a specified number of starts at the meeting; they offer a shot at enhanced purses for Fort Erie horseman.

Last year's schedule had 19 cup races, worth $30,000 apiece, but only nine will be offered this year with the purses cut to $25,000 each.

The backstretch opens March 25. Racing begins May 5 and ends Oct. 30.