05/14/2010 12:00AM

Ontrack handle new executive's top concern


FORT ERIE, Ontario - The operator of Fort Erie, the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium, has named Rick Cowan as its chief operations officer.

Cowan has extensive experience in Thoroughbred racing management. He began his career with the Ontario Jockey Club - now the Woodbine Entertainment Group - in 1976, rising to the position of executive vice president before moving on in the mid-1990s.

He has also served as an executive with Magna Entertainment Group, president of Autotote Enterprises Inc., and as a senior board member with Baymount Incorporated, a company that develops horse racing properties.

Cowan toured the backstretch last week, renewed some old acquaintances, and now looks forward to getting settled and focusing on his new appointment.

"There are a number of challenges ahead," said Cowan, "not the least of which is increasing the ontrack handle.

"In addition, I would like to take a look at broadening the number of simulcast partners currently in place and possibly expanding our offtrack betting opportunities."

Drexler divides his time at two tracks

Trainer Martin Drexler has split his barn between Woodbine and Fort Erie and will have approximately 10 runners stabled at each location. Former jockey Maree Richards will be handling the Fort Erie side of the operation while Drexler intends to spend at least a couple of days a week here.

"We have some excellent staff at both locations and Maree runs a top-notch shed row," said Drexler. "We are thinking positive and looking forward to a good year here at the Fort."

Drexler compiled a solid 23 percent win rate at Woodbine last year, winning with 11 of 47 starters. At the Fort, he went 5 for 33.

Singh draws suspension for winning ride

Two jockeys, Francine Villeneuve and Sunny Singh, both broke into the win column at this meet last week.

Villeneuve took a few years off before deciding that she needed to get back into racing. She has 935 lifetime wins and her mounts have won more than $14 million.

Singh notched his 222nd career win last Monday when he brought home longshot Italian Dancer from off the pace. But for misuse of the whip in that race and in another, he has been suspended for four days. Singh has appealed both suspensions.

Jockeys Eric Edwards and Melonie Pinto received one-day suspensions for similar whip infractions. Pinto has appealed.

* Jockey Anthony Stephens has accepted a three-day suspension, May 16-18, for causing interference when breaking from the gate with Trouble Today in last Sunday's second race.

* Agent Scotty Lane is smiling wide these days as his two riders, Rui Pimentel and Krista Carignan, are tied for leading rider with five wins each.