08/26/2011 1:53PM

Fort Erie: Cowan's changes have made a difference


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Rick Cowan, chief operations officer at Fort Erie, has introduced a number of changes during his two-year tenure at Fort Erie, including the opening of the trackside Tiki Bar.

“To be honest, it was an experiment worth trying,” said Cowan.

“It has turned out to be very successful and fans certainly appreciate the chance to sit outdoors, enjoy the racing, and then be entertained by some excellent bands on Tuesday evenings.”

Another change Cowan initiated last year and expanded in 2011 was the concept of twilight racing, with first post at 4 p.m.

“Last year the introduction of one evening race night per week proved so successful that this season we decided to try two twilight race evenings from June through August,” said Cowan.

“That extension will now be evaluated, and may result in a modified evening schedule for next season, but twilight racing will certainly be a part of the overall picture.”

Cowan also was instrumental in bringing about a long-needed change to the simulcast wagering amenities here.

Despite the improvements, Cowan certainly is not about to stand pat.

“There is still work to be done,” he said, “and I look forward to another season and the opportunity to welcome any new ideas that will further improve this grand old facility.”

Officials looking into 2012 meet

In recent years the onset of autumn has brought up the question of whether there will be racing season at Fort Erie in the coming year.

While the continuation of racing at most other tracks is taken for granted, the Fort’s horsemen and fans have waited on pins and needles for an announcement which until last season had come as late as mid-March.

Last fall the word that there would be a 2011 season came in September as the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, which leases the facility, recognized that an early commitment was needed.

“At the moment we are gathering a fair amount of complex information, including liability factors, for our board members to assess,” said Jim Thibert chief executive officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium.

“We are committed to providing a decision as early as possible, possibly by end September.”

Carignan maintains lead

Jockey Krista Carignan continues to lead the Fort Erie rider standings with 42 wins.

Last year, Carignan joined up with agent Scotty Lane and went on to win 93 races, 33 more than runner-up Real Simard.

Carignan dominated the standings through the final months of the 2010 meeting and looks forward to a similarly successful fall season.

Carignan, 23, currently holds a five-win advantage over Chris Griffith.

“We started off a bit slow but things have picked up nicely and Scotty continues to put me aboard some good runners, said Carignan. “My goal is to keep the good trend going and prove that last year was as good as it looked.”

The meet here ends Nov. 1 but racing at Woodbine continues until Dec. 4.

“We are looking to keep busy at the Fort while riding a few more at Woodbine,” she said. “Our intent is to take up the reins there once the Fort Erie season is over.”