09/27/2013 12:44PM

Fort Erie: Trainer Wills winning at 30 percent during meet


FORT ERIE, Ontario – Dan Wills, 53, has been active as a trainer at both Fort Erie and Woodbine since 2000, and year after year, he continues to send out winners at both ovals.

Fort Erie has been his home base since he formally took out his trainer’s license. His partner in life and assistant trainer at the track, Jeanne Ryan, owns the majority of horses in his barn.

“I have been round horses all my life, and it all began in England when as a teenager I began working with Thoroughbreds and gained my apprentice jockey’s license at the age of 16,” Wills said.

Wills rode in both flat races and steeplechase events in those early years and gained a good appreciation of racing prior to moving to Canada in 1984.

“I began galloping for Sid Attard on arriving at Woodbine, and over the years we have become the best of friends and I cannot thank him enough for his friendship and his guidance,” Wills said.

The Wills barn has averaged 13 runners, from year to year, with a low number of seven and a high number of 22 at any one time. There are currently 11 horses in the barn.

Wills has started 49 horses at Fort Erie this year, and 15 of them have landed in the winner’s circle. Those figures have resulted in a high 30 percent win rate, and that figure was even higher earlier in the season.

“We like to move horses around, as a rotation of runners is our way of keeping fresh stock in the stable,” Wills said. “If horses cannot make the grade, in our opinion, we tried to sell them. But one way or another, they do move on.”

Wills mentioned a couple of his horses who are among his career highlights.

“Aone Saucy Miss brought home over $180,000 for us, and Oriental Spring Hope was a talented runner,” he said. “One race that stands out is when Parabola won the two mile and 70-yard Tour de Fort, beating the good Kettle Rapids to win that affair.”

On future plans, Wills and Ryan have a relaxed attitude.

“Whatever happens, happens, and we will be just fine with that,” Wills said.

Craitor resigns from parliament

Kim Craitor, Niagara member of provincial parliament, has resigned from his seat, indicating that at age 67 it is time to move on and spend more hours with his family.

Craitor, first elected 10 years ago, has been a big booster of the Fort Erie Race Track and fought many battles to ensure the track was treated fairly when time and again it appeared it would close.

“The Fort Erie Race Track would not be here today if not for Kim Craitor,” Fort Erie CEO Jim Thibert said.