06/30/2011 12:35PM

Fort Erie brings back the Quarter Horses

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Quarter Horses return in spades to Fort Erie on this July holiday weekend for the Festival of Racing.

Ten races are on the schedule for Saturday, followed by mixed cards of Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses Sunday and Monday. Tuesday will feature the standard eight-race Thoroughbred card.

Eric Johnston, Quarter Horse racing secretary for this weekend meeting and again for the October schedule, arrived last Sunday from Houston to set up the action. He is looking forward to some competitive races.

“We should have no problem filling the cards as horsemen are very enthusiastic with the Fort Erie program,” said Johnston. “The two ‘Battle of the Breeds’ contests on Sunday will have $35,000 purses and include a 440-yard dash and a 870-yard challenge. Both breeds will send an equal number of runners to post in each event. There will be 10 runners in the 440 and eight in the 870. We all love to see who comes out on top and the backers of both breeds will be cheering their favorite home.”

Clint Crawford, from Oklahoma City, is back with 18 runners and looks to duplicate the good season he had last year at Ajax Downs.

Also arriving with eight runners will be Alvin Turner from Ruidoso Downs in New Mexico. Judd Kearl from Texas brings a top Quarter Horse in Comin Thru.

“It should be very interesting to see how the runners from down South match up with their Northern counterparts,” said Johnston. “I am certainly looking forward to watching the battle between the South’s Comin Thru and the North’s One Kool Wave, as those two runners are considered top notch in their respective leagues.

The twain could meet in the Bank of America Fort Erie Championship Challenge, a Grade 3 event which has a purse of $100,000-added and is scheduled for the Monday card.

Also on Monday is the 300-yard Quarter Horse CanAm Nations Cup, a $50,000-added race in which five Canadian runners could take on five runners from the United States, subject to availability.

Adding further color to Monday’s card is the $125,000 Rainbow Connection Stakes for Thoroughbred fillies and mares sired by a stallion standing in Ontario. The five-furlong Rainbow Connection is scheduled for the turf. A total of 21 fillies have been nominated but the field will be limited to 10 and be based on earnings in 2010-2011.

Sandspit retiring at 12

Tony Alderson’s 12-year old warrior Sandspit will be officially retired on Tuesday and will bid farewell to his many fans as he is paraded for the final time.

Sandspit was claimed as a 3-year old by Alderson and has banked approximately $290,000 for his family since that time, winning on both turf and dirt and at both Woodbine and here. Sandspit won Fort Erie’s Puss N Boots Cup two years in a row, in 2008 and 2009, providing trainer Alderson and the winning jockeys in those years the opportunity to take the famous leap into the Fort Erie infield pond.

“I love this old guy,” said Alderson. “He has been a big part of our family through the years and I cannot say enough about how much he has meant to all of us.”

The track has scheduled a retirement party for Sandspit on Monday, with proceeds from the sale of horseshoes going to the Fort Erie Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.