Fort Erie Race Track may have been closed to fans this year, but the 123rd racing season was still one for the record books. Despite the massive impact of COVID-19 and the many obstacles it presented, Fort Erie Race Track was able to safely operate 39 race days while remaining COVID-free.
“This season we had a backstretch community with close to 500 essential horse people, and more than 100 active staff members, and we were able to complete our meet safely and without any positive COVID-19 cases,” said Tom Valiquette, chief operating and financial officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “It was crucial that we were able to operate this season, and I want to thank all of our community members for working together safely and following our COVID-19 protocols. Through the efforts of every one of our team members, we were able to put on another successful season during one of the most challenging years in our history.”
Despite being closed to fans, Fort Erie saw a record year for wagering, with $40.2 million wagered this season on 39 days, up from $29.9 million last year with 40 days. This includes 15 days this season where more than $1 million was wagered.
Closing day featured the Tour de Fort at two miles and seventy yards on the main track. Auntie Katherine took the lead early on with jockey Emile Ramsammy, and she held on to that position for both laps around the track until she crossed the finish line. Trained by Jennifer Davis for owner Big Boy Racing, Auntie Katherine also won the Puss n Boots Cup and the Molson Cup earlier this season. With four wins from five starts, Auntie Katherine was this year’s meet leading horse.
It was a very successful season for jockey Juan Crawford, who claimed the title of leading rider this year with 48 wins. Among his many victories, highlights included the Puss n Boots Cup and the Molson Cup, both with Auntie Katherine.
“I try to make use of every shot that I get, whether it’s a long shot or a favourite. I just want to give every horse a fair chance and do my best for the people that I’m riding for,” said Crawford.
Jockey Melanie Pinto was second this year with 37 wins, followed by Kirk Johnson. Julie Mathes finished the season as leading trainer with 29 wins at Fort Erie, and her husband David Mathes took home the title of leading owner.
Fort Erie recently hosted the 85th Prince of Wales Stakes on September 29. The event is the 2nd jewel in the OLG Canadian Triple Crown, won by Mighty Heart, who now holds the first two legs of the series. Trained by Josie Carroll for owner Lawrence Cordes, the one-eyed wonder will be looking to make a run at the Breeders’ Stakes at Woodbine on October 24, in his quest to be the first horse to win the OLG Canadian Triple Crown since Wando in 2003.
Looking towards 2021, Fort Erie has applied for 40 race days again next year, operating primarily on Mondays and Tuesdays, beginning June 1 through to October 19. At this time, Fort Erie’s Racebook will continue to remain closed due to COVID-19.
For more information about Fort Erie Race Track, visit www.forterieracing.com.