05/28/2016 1:56PM

Meet opens Tuesday with new voice in booth


Fort Erie Race Track will kick off its 119th season of live racing Tuesday with an eight-race card that attracted 72 entries. Post time for the opening-day card is 4:15 p.m. Eastern.

Fort Erie will run a 40-day meet. The track will run on Tuesdays only for the first two weeks of the meet before adding Sunday cards beginning June 12. The track will then race two days a week through closing day, Oct. 18.

The highlight of the meet will be the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, the second jewel of the Canadian Triple Crown, on July 26. This will be the fourth consecutive season that the meet’s signature race will be run on a Tuesday. Tom Valiquette, chief financial officer and chief operating officer for the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, said less competition from other tracks helps to enhance the profile of the day.

“Moving to Tuesdays has been a godsend,” he said. “Wagering has been very strong. Our crowd size ontrack has been at least as good as when we held it on Sundays, and offtrack it’s been a boon. It’s tough when you’re going up against other tracks on the Sunday. The Prince of Wales race itself is a top-tier Canadian race, and it fares very well, but the rest of the card doesn’t compare to what is in New York and at other tracks.”

Valiquette said there are approximately 250 horses on the grounds ahead of opening day, which is up about 10 percent from last year at this time. However, field size will remain a concern throughout the meet despite the track seeing a 6 percent increase in average starters per race in 2015 over 2014.

“Field size still is an issue,” Valiquette said. “It’s the shortage in Ontario. A lot of the horses have made their way up to Woodbine, and we know they’re going to come back. But we’re in the same market as Woodbine, so if they’re down, we’re down, too. It’s going to be a challenge.”

Tuesday will mark Frank Salive’s first card as the new track announcer. Salive takes over for Shannon Doyle, who served as Fort Erie’s track announcer for the 2015 season. Salive is a former Woodbine Standardbred race-caller but also has called Thoroughbred races.

“We’re ecstatic to have Frank,” Valiquette said. “He’s a consummate professional. He comes from a broadcasting background. He’s been calling races at Calder and Gulfstream Park West. He’s done work outside of horse racing as well, but he knows the sport inside and out.”

Valiquette said the wagering menu would stay the same as last season. Fort Erie offers win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, superfecta, pick three, pick four, pick five, daily double, and high 5 wagering.