11/03/2011 11:02AM

Fort Erie handle declines


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Fort Erie Race Track concluded its meet Tuesday with a decrease in handle for its 78 days of Thoroughbred racing. Average daily handle for the 78 days of Thoroughbred racing was $508,615, a decline of 19 percent from last season when a 78-day season averaged $633,100 a day.

Contributimng to the decline was a reduction in the number of races offered and the loss of a major simulcast customer, New York City Off-Track Betting, which closed its operation last December.

A total of 679 races were run in 2010 compared to 635 races this season. The reduction in the number of races was because of a declining purse account. Purse distribution at the meet dropped from $8,582,000 in 2010 to $7,690,000 in 2011.

There was also a slight decline in average field size from 8.1 horses in 2010 to 7.7 horses per race in 2011.

The final three days of the meet decided the riding title, when Chris Griffith maintained his slim lead on Kirk Johnson and Real Simard. Griffith finished the year with 58 wins.

“This was a great season for me,” said Griffith. “I got off to a great start in the spring and that certainly helped.”

Ross Armata won the training title with 28 wins.

Fort Erie Race Track is already planning for its 115th season in 2012. Racing will resume May 6.

◗ The final $30,000 Cup race of the year, the two-mile and 70-yard Tour de Fort on Tuesday, was won by trainer Nick Gonzalez’s Game Ball. The 4-year-old colt by Sky Mesa was sent off as the heavy favorite and paid $2.90 to win.