06/09/2004 11:00PM

Woodbine won't host extra days


FORT ERIE, Ontario - With Woodbine saying no, the possibility of Fort Erie extending its 81-day meet beyond Labor Day is now ended.

Nick Coukos, executive director of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association of Ontario, had spearheaded discussions involving Woodbine as a potential host of Fort Erie races on Mondays in the fall. The plan was proposed because the final 36 days of the Fort Erie meet, originally scheduled for 117 days, were canceled to ensure ample time for a major reconstruction of the dirt track.

Hugh Mitchell, Woodbine's senior vice president of racing, said that a lengthy analysis pointed to very insignificant financial benefits to his track. The stretch to a six-day work week, because of overtime, would inflate labor costs.

But equally important, or more so, said Mitchell, is the fact that Woodbine has made an application to the Ontario Racing Commission to change its schedule for Standardbred racing.

In previous years, the Standardbreds returned to Mohawk for five weeks following the Breeders' Crown meeting in Toronto, which will be run this year from Oct. 11 through Oct. 23.

If the application is approved, then the Standardbreds would remain at Woodbine through the November to December period. That would leave only four Mondays open for Fort Erie-at-Woodbine cards. And, it would prevent the use of the Standardbred paddock and its 40 box stalls as a ship-in destination for Fort Erie runners.

"Another complicating issue in the four weeks is the Thoroughbred sales," said Mitchell. "We would be asking for some 200 or more horses to leave the sales barn area."

Rare Friends and Krz Ruckus to knock heads

Two of Woodbine's crack sprinters, Rare Friends and Krz Ruckus, will clash here Saturday in a five-furlong allowance race that drew a field of six.

Both have scored at the meet. Rare Friends, the Canadian champion 2-year-old in 2001, triumphed by six lengths on May 15 at six furlongs. Krz Ruckus, 7, a winner of $848,435, outdueled Rundle by a half-length on May 10. Farther back was Lucky Tec in third.

Lucky Tec came back and nosed out Rundle last Saturday in the Fort's first stakes of the year, the Expedite Plus.

"Krz Ruckus is a tough old bird going five furlongs," said Bob Tiller, trainer and part-owner of Rare Friends. "I'm a little concerned with the short distance, but my horse is in good order."

Rare Friends made just four starts last year. He won two of them, the Parnitha here and the Jacques Cartier at Woodbine.

"It's the same old story," said Tiller, Woodbine's leading trainer. "I can't find races for him in Toronto. So, why not Fort Erie? And this makes him eligible for some stakes there." Some Fort Erie stakes are restricted to horses who have raced previously at the meet.

"A race for him in Toronto last Friday didn't fill," Tiller said. "I refuse to keep him in the barn while he's in good order. He only ran four times last year."

Six wins put Agosti in tie for second place

Tom Agosti saddled six winners last week to leap alongside Don MacRae for second in the trainer standings with 10 wins apiece. Ross Armata is at the top with 12.

"It took a while for us to get going here," said Agosti, who had 50 wins here last year. "But the Tampa Bay horses are doing well here. I don't know whether it's the surface or if they're better caliber."

Agosti bought eight runners in Tampa Bay, where he competed over the winter. He won 19 races there, good for a share of fifth place in the standings.