08/22/2007 11:00PM

Uncertainty over 2008 dates and purses


FORT ERIE, Ontario - It is coming up to crunch time for the setting of racing dates for the 2008 season at Fort Erie.

Both the owner of the track, Nordic Gaming Corp., and the local Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association generally agree that a number of issues, primarily monetary, have created uncertainty around next season's dates and purse structure.

Herb McGirr Sr., director of racing at Fort Erie, said that the revenue received from the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. - money generated by the racetrack's slot machines - is again expected to be reduced considerably.

"The previous drop in revenue had us cutting dates down from over 104 days to 84 days for this year as well as a reduction in purses," said McGirr. "The projected revenue for the upcoming season is down once again, and we are working with the HBPA in assessing the impact it will have on our upcoming decision with regard to racing dates and purses."

Nick Gonzalez, vice president of the Ontario HBPA, sees things similarly.

"We managed to work out a viable racing program for this year, but there is no question that the reduction in racing days and in the purses hurt our horsemen considerably," said Gonzalez. "I am optimistic that the government and the OLG will recognize our particular situation and that the issue can be resolved, both for the short term and the long term. We are looking to resolve the immediate issue of the 2008 racing season."

Gonzalez expressed hope that a development proposal under discussion by the track's owner and the Ontario government could turn things around.

"The proposal for a hotel and entertainment complex, if approved, would also give our industry the promise of better things to come," he said.

Six-win day keeps King on top

Robbie King Jr., with six winners on the card here Tuesday, remained atop the jockey standings with 61 wins, 11 more than Chad Beckon.

King's six winners on the 10-race card equaled the previous record set by Sandy Hawley (four times), Gary Stahlbaum, and Al Coy.

King scored in the first three races of the day and then proceeded to win the sixth, seventh, and eighth races. He came very close to making it seven wins on the day, losing the ninth race by only a neck and after his mount, Kerry Fair, broke awkwardly and had to make up lost ground.

"We were on live stock all day and we had a bit of luck, too," said King.

In Tuesday's eighth race, King's mount, Frezacon, tied the track record for 6 1/2 furlongs. Frezacon, a 4-year-old gelding, went gate to wire in 1:15.93. That record goes way back to August 1968, when Muzledick (1:15 4/5) went into the record books.

Frezacon was given a career-high Beyer Speed Figure of 94.