09/24/2010 12:57PM

Simms relieved he can plan ahead for Fort Erie in 2011

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FORT ERIE, Ontario – In recent years, after wrapping up the meet at Fort Erie, trainer John Simms has headed south to stable at Tampa Bay Downs without knowing whether the Fort would be open for business the following spring.

But there will be no uncertainty this year after the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium this week announced a 78-day schedule for 2011. The schedule includes 4 p.m. post times on Mondays and Tuesdays in June, July, and August.

“It is great to finally know what next year will bring,” Simms said. “We love this place, as do many of our fellow conditioners. For a number of years we had to wrap things up in the fall without knowing if we would be back.

“It certainly relieves the apprehension and overall things are moving forward,” he said.

A mainstay at the Fort for many seasons, Simms was second in the trainer standings through Thursday with 24 wins, nearly all of them in claiming races.

“Our wins have come from all corners, but regrettably we do not have the one or two big horses that could run here and at Woodbine,” he said.

Simms was referring to his former runners such as a Roman Romance, a multiple stakes winner who earned more than $540,000 in her career, and Archers Alyancer, who earned nearly $300,000 while under Simms’s care.

“You have to play with the cards you’re dealt,” Simms said. “Obviously, one or two quality runners competing at Woodbine would be a welcome addition, but we are where we are. There are two promising 2-year-olds in the barn, and with youngsters there is always hope.”

Simms has sent only three runners to Woodbine this year, winning once.

The Fort has had its share of Woodbine shippers this year, many who have dropped in company. Although the shippers boost field size, they also present an added challenge for local trainers.

“It goes with the territory,” Simms said.

Regarding the coming winter, Simms said he will be looking to Woodbine and Fort Erie owners willing to give Tampa Bay Downs a try.

“We have a few stalls open, and a Woodbine runner at Tampa can certainly be productive,” he said. “We know the track and the people and our experience over the years is certainly a plus.”

Quarter Horses come to the Fort

Quarter Horse racing at the Fort will begin Saturday and continue on Saturdays to the end of the meet.

On the final weekend of the season, two mixed-breed $50,000 stakes races have been carded, and Simms said he intends to enter Texas Blitz in one of them.

“He is very fast, and a stakes win would be a great way to end the Fort Erie season,” he said.

The total purse structure will total $700,000 and include eight stakes races offering $320,000.

Adding to opening day for the live Quarter Horse meet will be the Canadian Cowgirls precision drill team musical ride plus prizes, contests, and giveaways.