02/17/2005 1:00AM

Prince of Wales headlines Fort Erie's 108-day meet


TORONTO, Ontario - The $500,000 Prince of Wales and the $250,000 Labatt Bison City remain the showpieces of the Fort Erie meeting, but the stakes schedule for 2005 has a different look than in past years.

Fort Erie ran an abbreviated 81-day meet last year, closing on Labor Day to accommodate installing a new main-track surface, but the meet will run 108 days this year, from May 1 through Oct. 31.

The Prince of Wales, the second leg of the Triple Crown for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds, and the Bison City, the middle race in the triple tiara for Canadian-bred 3-year-old fillies, head a list of 15 stakes worth a total $1.4 million.

Last year, Fort Erie ran a total of 24 stakes worth $2.1 million.

"We cut the schedule a bit, and changed some names," said Tom Gostlin, Fort Erie's racing secretary.

The casualties include the Canada Day and the International Turf Cup, both $100,000 races for Canadian-breds that were introduced last year.

The two divisions of the Juvenile stakes, for products of Woodbine's open and mixed sales, also have been discontinued.

"We need a stakes program to keep interest up, but what we really need is to keep the money in overnight purses so the people here can make a living," said Gostlin.

Fort Erie also will continue to cater to local horsemen with an in-house program of eight stakes, which will be restricted to horses with a specified number of starts at the meeting.

The races, all of which are referred to as "Cups," will offer purses of $30,000 and will not qualify for black-type status.

Meanwhile, stall applications were due earlier this week, and Gostlin said the response has been strong, with more than 1,400 requests received for the 1,200 available spots.

"Everything's looking very good," said Gostlin. "We're going to have a lot of our regulars back, and there's been interest from new people in Western Canada, from Mountaineer, from Ohio, and from Florida."

The backstretch is scheduled to open March 20.

2005 Fort Erie stakes schedule

Mon.,July 4LABATT BISON CITY3YO F*1 1/16 miles$250,000
Mon, July 4DARYL WELLS SR. MEMORIALF&M, 3YO & Up*6 furlongs100,000
Mon.,July 11H. A. HINDMARSHF&M, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles40,000
Tues.,July 12H. J. ADDISON JR.C&G, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles40,000
Sun.,July 17PRINCE OF WALES3YO*1 3/16 miles500,000
Sun.,July 17ERNIE SAMUEL MEMORIALF&M, 3YO & Up*1 1/16 miles (T)100,000
Sun.,July 24RAINBOW CONNECTIONF&M, 3YO & Up**5 furlongs (T)125,000
Sun.,Aug. 7DON VALLIERE MEMORIAL CUPC&G, 3YO & Up6 furlongs30,000
Sun.,Aug. 14GOLDEN HORSESHOE CUPF&M, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles30,000
Sun.,Aug. 14PEACE BRIDGE CUPC&G, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles30,000
Sun.,Aug. 21FORT ERIE SLOTS CUPF&M, 3YO & Up5 furlongs (T)30,000
Sun.,Aug. 21PARNITHA CUPC&G, 3YO & Up5 furlongs (T)30,000
Sun.,Aug. 28LONGSHOTS OTB CUPF&M, 3YO & Up6 furlongs30,000
Mon.,Sept. 5CENTRE STAGE ANNE CUPF&M, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)30,000
Mon.,Sept 5PUSS N BOOTS CUPC&G, 3YO & Up1 1/16 miles (T)30,000

* Can.-bred; **Ont.-sired