(with files from JM) The 124-year-old border oval kicked off the racing season on Tuesday with a tremendous card featuring two Cup races, the Sprint into Summer and the Summer Solstice Cup.

The first race on opening day went to Souper Deputy (Souper Speedy) for trainer Julie Mathes and jockey Chris Husbands. He returned $3.20 to his backers. The leading trainer at last year’s meet, Mathes was happy to be back in the winner’s circle on opening day.

“My husband, myself and our team at the barn are very elated. We’ve put a very long hard winter into the horses, and we are very happy to see it paying off. It was a great way to start the season,” said Mathes.

Jockey Chris Husbands rode two winners on opening day, while jockey Pierre Mailhot rode three winners on the card.

Mailhot captured the Sprint into Summer Cup aboard Gunzig Stinger. Owned by Zig J. Grinsteins and trained by Claudia Rabstein, the four-year-old son of Signature Red – Wicked Romance by Dehere battled back from a stretch duel with Red Mercury to win the $30,000 Cup race for maidens who have worked twice at Fort Erie in 2021. Gunzig Stinger was second in all three of his starts as a three-year-old in 2020. Sent off at 6 to 1, Gunzig Stinger went five furlongs in 57.89.


Grinsteins and Rabstein and Mailhot combined to win race 5 as well. Words of Gold, by Goldencents, won the $8,000 claiming race for her second career win.

The other feature race on the card, the $30,000 Summer Solstice Cup, for maiden fillies, was clinched by Lost Corsage (Old Forester – First Corsage by Grindstone) Owned by Jeanne Ryan, the four-year-old filly romped home victorious under the setting sun with veteran rider Kirk Johnson aboard.

For trainer Daniel Wills, Lost Corsage exceeded his expectations in the race.

“It wasn’t the original expectation. We bought her from John Charalambous at the end of the year and he said that she would do really good at Fort Erie and she was blossoming. Kirk worked her from the gate and said if you run her in the Cup she’ll win. It wasn’t the plan originally, but I just went along with what he’s got to say, and we took a shot and got lucky.”

Breezing the filly in the morning, Kirk Johnson felt very confident about his ride going into the race. “The way she breezed and how much horse I had – it just gave me chills. You know you just get that feeling as a rider.”

Wills and Ryan won another race on the day when the filly Lefootwostomps was placed first in a maiden race on turf through disqualification.

The fan favourite Mr. Changue, an eight-year-old horse, won and paid $59 for Sam Passero and Ken Albu in race 7. The Florida-bred gained headlines in 2019 when he fell into sinkhole on the Fort Erie backstretch.

And Jeff Voyce’s Be Vewy Vewy Quiet sizzled in a starter allowance, race 8, winning by four lengths in 1:09.13 under Husbands. The Silent Name (Jpn) gelding was coming off two unplaced efforts at Thistledown. He is now two for two at Fort Erie.

The opening day card saw $1.2 million in wagering which was down from just over $2 million from opening day in 2020 when there were few other racetracks in action due to Covid-19.

Fort Erie’s racing season includes 39 days, running Mondays at 1 p.m. and Tuesdays at 4 p.m. until Labour Day. From September 6 onwards, post time will be at 1 p.m. for both days.

Racing will continue without spectators, however, fans can watch a live HD stream online here.

Fans can also watch the replay show on YourTV channel 700, Friday nights at 7 p.m. and Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.