05/13/2011 1:15PM

Fort Erie: Meet gets off to strong start


FORT ERIE, Ontario – A large and enthusiastic crowd was on hand for opening day, Derby Day, last Saturday as the Fort Erie Race Track began its 114th season.

A survey of all track areas, including the new betting parlor located in the ontrack slots casino, found all of them to be full and very busy.

Rick Cowan, chief operating officer at the track, was extremely pleased with the crowds on Saturday’s opening day and again on Mother’s Day, Sunday.

“It is great to start the season this way, and in all respects both days were a success,” Cowan said. “Our dining facilities were sold out on Sunday, and both opening day and Mother’s Day, from a track perspective, could not have been better.”

Mike Dimoff, the new track announcer at the Fort, provided his insight into the opening day’s races along with media and marketing manager Elissa Blowe. The handicapping show is on the track’s daily schedule one hour before post time. A variety of guest handicappers will be featured.

Wayne Tott, in his 44th season as a parimutuel teller, was among the many track employees who felt the opening-day buzz.

“This kind of crowd brings back some great memories,” Tott said. “This large crowd reminds me of a spring opening day before winter simulcasting came along.”

Bugler Nagel Reinhold, in his 50th straight year of trumpeting the famous “call to post,” heralded the new post time for the first race, 12:45 p.m.

Bold Silver, the public’s choice trained by Nick Gonzalez, sped through the 4 1/2-furlong dash in 54.5 seconds under jockey Terry Husbands to prevail.

Rider Kirk Johnson won two races Saturday, but by the time the weekend wrapped up, two familiar faces were leading the jockey standings. Chris Griffith brought home three winners to add to his two Woodbine scores this spring, while Krista Carignan, leading rider at the Fort last season, was blanked Saturday but rode three winners Sunday to match Griffith for the top spot.

John Simms, recently returned from Tampa Bay Downs, had three winners from five starters over the opening two days and stood alone at the top of the trainer standings.

Jockey Sunny Singh brought home the longest shot of the weekend in Again Please, a gate-to-wire winner in Saturday’s fourth. The $10,000 claimer paid $78.70 to win and set off mutuels of $1,170 in the pick three and a $2,194 superfecta (2-3-1-all).

Michael Cohen, trainer of Again Please, was not surprised.

“He had a good winter and spring, then worked very fast over this surface before the race,” Cohen said. “I looked for a big effort.”

Cohen, 50, began his training career 10 years ago. He currently has six runners based at Woodbine and is looking to expand his one-horse stable at the Fort.

Sunday to Tuesday racing, with post time at 12:45 p.m., will be scheduled through the rest of May. Twilight racing on Monday and Tuesday begins in June, with a post time of 4 p.m.