07/26/2013 7:54AM

Fort Erie expects handle boost with Tuesday running of Prince of Wales


FORT ERIE, Ontario – The $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, will be run Tuesday evening at Fort Erie.

The 1 3/16-mile Prince of Wales was traditionally run on a Sunday afternoon, but Fort Erie moved the race to twilight Tuesday, when first post is 4:15 p.m.

“Our Sunday Prince of Wales crowds were not what they once were, so we considered the change to Tuesday where the evening card will allow young and old to attend and enjoy the spectacle,” said Rick Cowan, Fort Erie’s chief operations manager.

Cowan noted that management debated the pros and cons of the switch.

“A major consideration was the Tuesday night handle, where we do not have the competition of other tracks, and offtrack wagering is considerably higher that evening,” Cowan said. “This flagship race should build on that handle, and we hope and expect our Prince of Wales evening to possibly set a record in the wagering department.”

“We will miss out on the Sunday experience, but times change. A decision had to be made early on with the reduced 50-day schedule, and after weighing all the options, it was decided to go with the Tuesday evening time slot.”

Solid crowd, thrilling stakes finish

A good crowd was on hand last Tuesday evening for the penultimate race on the program, the $75,000 Rainbow Connection Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

And the five-furlong turf race provided plenty of thrills as one horse after another fought for the lead and then Proud of My Roots and jockey Jesse Campbell caught fire and took off after the leaders.

Campbell, building on his reputation of taking longshots to the winner’s circle, had expected his 14-1 filly to be on the lead from the start.

“My plan was to get away at the break, only that did not work out,” Campbell said. “So I went to Plan B, waited, and then she did the rest with that solid stretch rally.”

A five-furlong turf affair is normally not conducive to a runner sitting well off the pace, but the speed battle up front took its toll, and when Campbell asked for a stretch response Proud of My Roots came through with flying colors and hit the wire a neck in front of Tequilamockingbird.

An inquiry resulted in a change of the order of finish as Tequilamockingbird was placed fourth for interference in the stretch and Crysta’s Court and Dance to the Moon moved up to second and third, respectively.

Trainer Paul Attard had taken charge of Proud of My Roots for owner Ballycroy Training Centre after the 4-year-old Bold Executive filly had passed through several other barns.

“We sent her to the farm just before the virus struck my barn, so she missed the virus lockdown,” Attard said, with reference to the quarantine at his Woodbine barn last month following an outbreak of the equine herpesvirus. “When she returned, all was clear, and then two works set her up for this winning trip.”

This was the first stakes win for Proud of My Roots, and it came in her second start on the turf. Her first grass try in 2012 resulted in a ninth-place finish.

Proud of My Roots paid $30 and touched off a 2-5 exacta with Crysta’s Court that paid $252.90.

Johnson forges tie in jockeys’ race

Jockey Kirk Johnson has been winning at an excellent clip of late and is now tied for the races-won lead with Bradley Wilson and Brian Cheyne.

All three have 16 winners this season, but Johnson has the best win rate at 18.8 percent.

Johnson, now 38 and in only his eighth season of riding, finished second in both 2011 and 2012 to Chris Griffith and Terry Husbands, respectively.

Prior to coming east, Johnson rode 78 winners at Winnipeg’s Assiniboia Downs in 2006 only to fall three short of the riding title there.