10/12/2005 11:00PM

Meet to close with long Tour de Fort

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FORT ERIE, Ontario - The 2005 Fort Erie meet will end will a flair on Nov. 1.

The Tour de Fort, at two miles and 70 yards, is the longest race run in Ontario and a tradition on the meet's final weekend. And this year it will be run on that day for a purse of $30,000, up from $10,000, according to racing secretary Tom Gostlin.

"And Cheldon, a sponsor, will present trophies to the winning owner, trainer, and jockey," said Gostlin of a company that does trophy engraving. "Next year, it will likely become a part of the Cup races."

Attonotauto, 6, will defend his title in the marathon race, coming off a second in a recent prep race.

The last stakes at the Fort this year was the $125,000 Rainbow Connection on July 24. But a series of eight Cup races, restricted to runners with previous starts at this meet, began with the Don Valliere Memorial on Aug. 7 and ended with the Puss N Boots on Sept. 5. Each Cup race offered a $30,000 purse.

The final week of the meet begins Oct. 28. With five racing days that week, Gostlin expects many horses to run twice in that period.

"It's their last shot before being turned out for the winter," he said. "I can imagine horses running three times in the last 10 days. It's happened before."

Division champs to be named soon

The meet champions of all divisions will be crowned at an awards banquet and dance at Leisureplex in Fort Erie on Oct. 27.

Sponsored by the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the event is open to the public. Tickets are $25.

The awards presentation is returning to its former long-standing format. Last year, the awards were announced and presented between races on the meet's final day.

Niagara Falls trainer heading south

Trainer Campbell Wilson is looking forward to spending the winter at Oaklawn Park, in Hot Springs, Ark., where he usually goes to exercise horses for other trainers during the Fort's off-season.

"This will be my fourth year going back there," said Wilson, 29, a native of Niagara Falls, Ontario. "I'm taking two horses down there that I'll probably run. Both are unstarted.

"I'll probably bring back four or five. You get good horses there. I'm looking for another Oh Mar."

Wilson trained the recently retired speedball Oh Mar.

Wilson has saddled only seven winners this meet. Last year, during a shorter meet here, he had 12 winners. His win percentage has dropped from 20 percent last year to 13 this year. Still, he views 2005 as a positive year, highlighted by a victory in the Don Valliere Memorial Cup with Ontario Road and two allowance victories.

"I'm getting a little better quality of horse, and that's what we are shooting for," he said.