05/27/2011 3:25PM

Fort Erie: Concessi down to only one horse


FORT ERIE, Ontario – The first month of the Fort Erie season comes to a close this weekend, and a new condition book has been issued that sets out the upcoming races.

Racing secretary John Whitson was in a buoyant mood as he passed over a copy of the new book.

“The first month went well enough, considering the number of rainy days,” said Whitson. “We hope Mother Nature will cooperate as turf races are now on the schedule.”

Trainers, and sometimes owners, love to dig through the condition book and sort out which runners will go where. Large stables have their work cut out. Small stables, with only one or two runners, must be certain to find the right spots.

Armand Concessi, 58, falls into the latter category.

Concessi has been training horses since the mid-1970s, usually working with a half-dozen runners. Today, Concessi is down to one horse, striving to make ends meet and to expand his stable.

That one horse, Afleet’s Love Song, went to post in mid-May, a $4,000 claimer for nonwinners-of-two-races lifetime, and sprinted to a second-place finish.

The new book has a number of nonwinners-of-two races scheduled for June at his price level.

“It is tough,” said Concessi. “I dropped from six horses to one when my American owners opted to run at Finger Lakes.

“The new tax, the harmonized sales tax, was the final straw for them. Now, I am looking for new owners, and some of my old friends and partners may be back.”

Reminiscing on his early years of training, Concessi recalled Woodbine trainers Scott Fairlie and Steve Owens galloping for him in the mornings at Greenwood Racetrack.

“Heck, my first year with a license, I went to Finger Lakes and won 20 races with six horses,” he said. “I moved to the Fort in the early’80s and have made this my home.

“Things were rolling right along and I had some good horses and owners. Dog Pound Stable was one of them. Six great guys. I claimed Storm Cruiser for the Dog Pound for $14,000, and put him on the turf, his first time ever. He won in a romp.

“In the Cruiser’s next race, another win, hand then he followed that score with a stakes triumph. Then we put him in a $60,000 claimer at Woodbine and sadly, he was taken. Still, he was a money maker for the Dog Pound.”

Crown the Knight was another successful Concessi claim.

“We claimed him for $4,000,” he said. “He went on to win 13 races before being claimed for $7,500.”

Concessi is optimistic he can rebuild.

“I have bounced back before, and I will do it again,” he said.

◗ Chris Griffith continues his hot pace in the jockey standings. He has 13 wins, seven better than the rest of the field.

Trainer John Simms has seven wins, four more than Ross Armata and Ricky Griffith.