It was another record setting year at the Fort Erie Race Track, as the 119th season of live racing at the border oval came to a close on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Among the many positive highlights for the year was a 20 percent increase in all-source wagering to $28,855,000 over 40 days of racing. On-track attendance grew by close to 10 percent, based on increases in on-track wagering, food and beverage sales and program sales. The 81st running of the Prince of Wales Stakes was also a record breaking event, with the highest on-track attendance in recent record and $2.2 million in wagering.
“We’re a small track with limited resources and a short race meet, yet despite these limitations we have had a very successful season,” said Tom Valiquette, chief operating and financial officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “Our positive results this year show that our horse racing product is as competitive as any track in Canada.”
The annual two miles and 70 yards Tour de Fort was run on closing day, with Master Lightning taking the win for jockey Jermaine V. Bridgmohan and trainer Blair A. Miller. The battle for meet leading jockey was a tight race right until the end, with Kirk Johnson squeaking by as winner for the 4th year in a row with 36 wins. Melanie Pinto was right behind with 35 wins. Top five jockeys were rounded out by Christopher Griffith, Aimee Auger and Helen Vanek. Horse of the year went to Best Offer, owned by Jim Pearson and trained by Ken Albu.
Closing day also included a tribute to Fort Erie’s former announcer, Daryl Wells Jr., who passed away on October 13. Wells Jr.’s family and friends were in attendance for the tribute, which included a speech by Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley, and a replay of Wells Jr.’s final race called in Fort Erie, after his 33-year career at the track.
As the meet comes to an end, the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium is looking forward to next year, which will be the 120th season of live racing in Fort Erie. The season will begin on May 30 with popular twilight Tuesday racing, and will conclude on October 17.
Fort Erie Race Track remains open seven days a week for simulcast wagering, and features free monthly handicapping challenges beginning November 19.
For more information about the Fort Erie Race Track, visit www.forterieracing.com.