07/22/2011 12:44PM

Fort Erie: Lots of excitement on Prince of Wales Day

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – Going into last Sunday’s $30,000 Fort Erie Slots Cup race, trainer Martin Drexler was facing a conundrum.

Drexler had two fast fillies, My Natalie and Gee Pari, running as an entry in the six-furlong dash. Both fillies were on the top of their games with three and two straight wins, respectively. Krista Carignan had been on board for all five trips to the winner’s circle.

Drexler, also the owner, knew that his two runners preferred the front end as those recent wins were all gate-to-wire efforts. Carignan had the Slots Cup mount on My Natalie while Luis Contreras was named on Gee Pari

“I have some comfort in knowing that two top riders are on board,” Drexler said before the race.

The start found My Natalie on the lead and battling with Lady Celia in the early going. Gee Pari, under light restraint, settled some five lengths back of the leading couple. Carignan shook clear of the field into the turn and My Natalie began to look home free.

Meanwhile, Contreras, following instructions perfectly, had Gee Pari gaining momentum. By the eighth pole, she caught My Natalie and a stretch duel ensued. In the final yards My Natalie edged away again.

Based at Woodbine with 13 head in the barn, a beaming Drexler gave his assistant conditioner, Maree Richard, full credit.

“Maree had them ready to run,” he said.

Ðrexler has a record of 8 for 11 at the Fort. Carignan is now 6 for 6 with Drexler’s starters at the border oval this meet.

An hour later, Contreras won the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes aboard Pender Harbour, edging out Bowman’s Causeway by a nose. Carignan finished third aboard the front-running Oh Canada.

Winning trainer Mike De Paulo credited his jockey with a perfect well-timed ride.

“I asked Luis to keep the horse clear and out of trouble,” said De Paulo. “He rated him to perfection.”

Prince of Wales Day at the Fort was a complete success. Jim Thibert, chief executive officer at Fort Erie, was extremely pleased with the day.

“This has to be one of the largest crowds in years,” said Thibert. “The parking lot has overflowed and the crowd just keeps on coming.”

Total handle was $1,024,824, with more than $200,000 bet ontrack, double that of last year’s Wales card.