06/07/2013 11:27AM

Fort Erie meet off to spirited start


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Fort Erie is only three days into its 116th year of operation, but the vibes could not be much better, as fans are helping to make a successful beginning to a season that many thought would never happen.

The onsite handle has been up on all three days.

Tuesday’s first twilight card of the meet attracted a large crowd, and it was evident that a post-workday starting time allowed for the increased attendance.

Adding to the excitement of the evening’s eight-race card were the Horns from Hell. Following the last race, the group took to the bandstand.

Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin joined the band for a few numbers as patrons from every corner of the clubhouse and grandstand headed to the Tiki Bar.

When first proposed, the concept of a Tiki Bar on the grandstand tarmac near the finish line met its share of negativity. The Tiki Bar, however, has been a hit from Day 1.

CFO speaks out on funding

There was some chatter at Fort Erie about another opportunity denied to the track when $81 million was granted by the province to selected tracks that had upgraded their slots. Local media had implied that Fort Erie was once again given the short end of the stick.

However, Tom Valiquette, Fort Erie’s chief financial officer, set things straight.

“We never expected to receive any part of the $81 million,” Valiquette said. “Those funds were specific to renovations and improvements at other venues.

“Our funding arrangements were finalized on Monday, when our CEO, Jim Thibert, signed our agreement with the province.”

The amount of funding supplied by the province falls under a confidentiality clause.

Stakes, Cup schedules set

The 2013 Fort Erie Stakes and Cup schedule has been finalized.

As previously announced, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, the second leg of the Canadian Triple Crown, will be held Tuesday, July 30.

One week earlier, on July 23, the $75,000 Rainbow Connection Stakes for Ontario-sired fillies and mares is scheduled to go at five furlongs on the turf.

Three Cup races with guaranteed purses of $30,000 will be held Tuesday, Aug. 27. The races are two Memorial Cups – the Andy Passero for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs and the Bob Summers for 3-year-olds and up at the same distance – and the Molson Cup for fillies and mares over 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

The Puss N Boots Cup, a fan favorite, will be held Monday, Sept. 2, when 3-year-olds and up will go 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

Speedway gets final approval

Final approval for the Canadian Motor Speedway to be located in Fort Erie was received this week.

The stadium will seat between 65,000 and 100,000 race fans and is expected to be a major contributor to the Fort Erie economy.

Multiple jobs will be created, and the speedway fan base is expected to boost attendance at the Thoroughbred oval as well, since many speedway patrons should enjoy the added attraction of a horse racing venue.