09/28/2006 12:00AM

Track requests 20 fewer dates in '07


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Fort Erie has applied to the Ontario Racing Commission for 84 live racing dates for 2007. That is a reduction from the 104 days granted in both 2005 and 2006.

Revenue from the 1,200 slot machines in the adjoining casino at the track is down 30 percent this year. This source of revenue bankrolls approximately 75 percent of the purse account.

The dates request was made after discussions with the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.

"By contract we meet and discuss date applications," said Herb McGirr Sr., director of operations for Fort Erie, which is owned by Nordic Gaming.

"We projected what the purse money would be for 2007. The HPBA had two membership meetings here at Fort Erie and it was decided, by the board of directors, for an 84-day application. We supported it."

The membership wrestled with how best to handle the lighter purse account. Should the present 104-day schedule be maintained with purse cuts of 30 percent? Or should the purses - by reducing racing - remain the same?

In the application, the 2007 meet (May 5 to Oct. 30) would cover the about the same time frame as this year.

In 2007, it is proposed that racing in May, except for Kentucky Derby Day on May 5, will be conducted on Mondays and Tuesdays only. In June, Sundays would be added.

In the peak months of July and August, Saturdays would be tacked on. However, the Fort would remove the Saturdays for the remaining two months of the meet, except for the final weekend.

Additional races may be added to weekend racing programs.

Hot connections send Harvest Singing

Harvest Singing goes after her second consecutive Cup victory in Saturday's $30,000 Thoroughbred Niagara, a six-furlong race for fillies and mares that drew a strong field of six.

A win would give Harvest Singing's owner-trainer Vern Fernandes his fifth Cup score. He trains Cold War, who has won three Cup races this meet.

"Our horse is ready to run," said Fernandes about Harvest Singing, a four-time winner at the meet. "She is feeling good and has been training well."

Harvest Singing earned a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 75 for her latest effort. Monique Dionne will be back in the saddle. Dionne has already ridden five Cup winners.

Fernandes sees Braver the Smarter, who beat Harvest Singing in the Buffalo Cup on Aug. 19, as the main threat. In that race, however, Harvest Singing broke in the air and returned from her sixth-place finish exhibiting mucus in her breathing passages.

Two other runners, Blue Ridge Linda and Lovely Senorita, are coming into the race off an impressive win.

"She ran big," said owner Mike Barkowski, about Blue Ridge Linda's win at five furlongs. "And it wasn't even her distance. She's going her distance [Saturday] - six furlongs.

"She had a slow start this year. She had some minor nicks. I think we straightened them out. I think she's ready."

Lovely Senorita has been a vastly improved runner when Daniel David has been in the irons. David is 2 for 2 with Lovely Senorita, the only 4-year-old filly in the contest.

Lovely Senorita's first win under David came from off the pace. The last was gate to wire. She may be the speed of the race.