08/22/2001 11:00PM

More days and more racing


FORT ERIE, Ontario - The current Fort Erie meet, which was scheduled to end Oct. 30, will be extended two weeks and run through Nov. 13. The eight extra programs brings the total racing days for the year to 116. Last year year there were 107.

"It's predicated on Ontario Racing Commission approval," said track manager Eddie Lynn who foresees no problem at a hearing set for Aug. 30. "It's adding days instead of taking them away. Hopefully this will serve as a benchmark for the number of racing dates next season."

Business has been booming at Fort Erie - both at the adjoining slots and at the races. Earlier in the month management declared that business was up almost 20 percent over last year.

And an experiment, which concludes Wednesday, has been interesting. During July and August every second Wednesday was added to the four-day racing week. The questions were: Would the horse population support an extra day of racing during the peak of the season? Would the public respond to the move?

Yes and yes are the answers. The track has continued putting on 10-race cards with decent sized fields. The first Wednesday produced a handle of $649,647. But that was an American holiday, July 4, and good figures were expected. On the next Wednesday, two weeks later, the handle was $594,275. On Aug. 1 it rose to $675,090. Then on Aug. 15 it climbed to $713,997.

The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association had hoped to extend the season to the end of November. A compromise was reached with the track owner, Nordic Gaming. Besides the extension, there will be an 11th race added to programs. Lynn said that would be likely on weekends if not all the four days, till the end of the season.

* Ken Albu scored his first win as a trainer on Tuesday with Divisional Champ. Albu, 36, has been in the game for 20 years and was formerly an assistant to Woodbine trainer Sid Attard for eight years. It was his eighth start. He has moved to Fort Erie and is house-shopping.

* Mike Mattine was able to make amends for the rather poor showing of his mare, Everything, in the Center Stage Anne Stakes July 1, when she finished third as an odds-on favorite. Everything captured the inaugural running of the Golden Horseshoe stakes by a nose over Lewinsky on Tuesday. The race was taken off the turf.

* Jerome Leon connected in the new Peninsula Stakes with Bold Arbitrage ($38.50). The longshot held off a fast-closing Malcoha in a photo. Malcoha who was Fort Erie's horse of the year in 1998 seems to be back in form. "He loved the soft turf," said his trainer, Dan Poliziani. "His next start will be in the Puss N Boots [Sept. 3]. He won it two years ago. He'll probably do it again."