10/12/2007 12:00AM

Tote snafu costs bettors big bucks

EmailFORT ERIE, Ontario - A number of horseplayers had a frustrating day at Fort Erie on Monday when a tote problem turned potential winners into losers.

At Fort Erie, there is a strong tendency to bet on both the local runners and the races from Woodbine. Other simulcasts are part of the overall play, but the Ontario tracks are often preferred.

Following Monday's third race at Woodbine, some whoops and hollers could be heard when longshot Bag of Hammers placed. The triactor paid $1,073.80 and the exactor $112.20.

But before the cashing of tickets could begin, the tote system went out.

Most losing tickets on the third race at Woodbine probably were discarded once the "official" sign was posted. Fifteen minutes later, the system here came back on line and horses left the Fort's paddock for the fourth race with a much reduced handle because of the tote problem.

Meanwhile, bettors went up to cash their winning tickets from Woodbine only to find that no payout was yet available.

More than an hour passed before the announcement came: "All tickets purchased on the third race at Woodbine will receive a full refund."

One player attempting to cash his $112 exactor instead was given back $4 for his initial wager. Similarly, a potential triactor winner received only a refund.

The announcement of a refund also brought a scramble for tickets that had been discarded. One young man managed to pick up more than $40 in refund tickets while others fared even better.

According to Fort Erie management, the track had no choice but to refund the wagers.

"The Windsor Hub had a power outage preventing all wagers from Fort Erie and other tracks centered on that hub from transferring all the wagers to Woodbine," said Chad Gates, the mutuel manager at Fort Erie. "If the final merger allowing all wagers to enter the the Woodbine pool does not occur, which happened in this instance, then all wagers on the race are refunded as required by the Canadian Parimutuel Agency, the governing body for wagering in Canada."

Ramirez riding a hot streak

Martin Ramirez, who has been riding at a regular basis at Woodbine, has returned to take mounts at the Fort and has been stirring up a storm of late.

From May to mid-September, Ramirez had only ridden 63 times at the Fort, managing 9 wins, a 14 percent average.

But the last 12 days have found Ramirez, a former leading rider here, aboard 39 runners. He has won on 12 of them, hitting at 30 percent.

Robbie King Jr., last year's leading rider at the Fort, continues to lead the jockey standings by a wide margin with 97 victories and a 22 percent win rate.