06/11/2010 12:00AM

Fort Erie resumes taking bets in U.S. dollars


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Fort Erie has had its share of controversy when it comes to the wagering dollar. The opportunity to bet with U.S. dollars as well as Canadian was denied last season, resulting in the need for Americans to change their money in order to bet.

However, Tom McKinnon, the track's new wagering and development manager, decided to reinstitute tellers dedicated to U.S. dollars, and American customers have certainly welcomed the opportunity to place a bet in their own currency.

"There are still a few kinks to be worked out, but the feedback has been very positive," McKinnon said.

McKinnon, who began his racing career at the Fort in the 1970s, has an extensive background gained from positions at a number of tracks, including Woodbine.

"We have a number of ideas on the table at the present, with the aim of improving the overall balance sheet," McKinnon said. "Simulcasting is one of our priorities, and we are looking to expand our partnerships in that regard."

Turf races drawing full fields

Turf racing is now back on board, and racing secretary John Whitson has been posting full fields.

Regrettably, the rains came last weekend causing the Rainbow Connection Stakes and other scheduled turf events to be moved to the dirt, but Whitson remains optimistic.

"Brian Jabelman, our new property and housekeeping manager, is working diligently on putting the turf course in top shape for the season," Whitson said. "And if Mother Nature is agreeable, we will be carding many more races on the grass than in previous years."

McGirr leaving Fort Erie in June

Herb McGirr, director of operations at Fort Erie Racetrack for the last few seasons, has turned down an offer to stay on as a member of the business consortium's new management team and will wrap up a long racing career at the end of June.

McGirr became involved with Thoroughbreds when purchasing his first horse in the 1970s. He was active in keeping the track operating as the potential demise of racing at the Fort loomed in the 1990s.

The track's former owners, the Ontario Jockey Club, brought him on board in 1996 and he has since held a number of management positions here, including serving as director of racing and marketing/business development with owner Nordic Gaming.

Nordic Gaming, which leased the track to the business consortium this season, had been losing money in recent years as casino revenue plunged. The challenge to keep the track open with limited funds was more than evident.

"I just felt it was time for me to move on," McGirr said. "I will be taking a holiday in July and then begin working on future plans. I certainly wish the consortium, its new management team, and the track every success."

Gonzalez tops trainer standings

Trainer Nick Gonzalez won two races here Tuesday and leads the trainer standings at the Fort with 13 wins. He had 991 wins lifetime heading into the weekend and is closing on the 1,000-win mark with runners here and at Woodbine. Trainers Lyle Morden and John Simms are tied for second in the standings with seven wins. Also of note is trainer Tony Adamo's 83 percent win rate. Adamo has sent out six runners, and five of them have won.