Another year of horseracing has come to an end in Fort Erie. The border oval completed its 120th season on Tuesday, Oct. 17.
Kirk Johnson held on to the title of Meet Leading Jockey for the fifth year in a row, completing the meet with 36 wins, followed closely by Helen Vanek with 35 wins. The top five jockeys were rounded out by Sunny Singh, Christopher Griffith and Melanie Pinto. Horse of the Year went to Tiger Hall, owned by Kelly Ann Jones and trained by Kevin Buttigieg. With 19 firsts this season, Julie Robillard finished the meet as Leading Trainer. Bruno Schickedanz took the title of Leading Owner.
2017 saw some new additions, including the inaugural Retired Racehorse Showcase, and the introduction of Saturday racing. “On-track, our Saturdays in the fall seemed to be successful, however they proved to be difficult operationally, in particular with staff who only work on race days,” said Tom Valiquette, chief operating and financial officer of the Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium. “After analyzing the results from Saturday racing, and listening to the input of our staff, horsepeople and fans, we decided to return to Sundays for the 2018 meet.”
Despite having an unfortunately wet and rainy summer, on-track attendance has been consistent with levels from previous years. Food and beverage sales and program sales remained consistent with previous years, and on-track wagering in the fall increased.
“From an attendance perspective we consider 2017 to have been a successful year, however we did face challenges this season, which were largely the result of a restrictive shipping policy that was introduced by Woodbine Racetrack at the start of our season,” continued Valiquette. “This policy had a significant impact on our field sizes, and therefor also on our wagering. The negative impact was most evident on our three biggest days of the year, opening day, Father’s Day and Prince of Wales day.
“Despite these challenges, our horsepeople, staff and fans helped to make 2017 another successful year, and we look towards our 2018 season with great anticipation.”
Racing is scheduled to return on Tuesday, May 29, 2018 with twilight racing beginning at 4:20 p.m. The Fort Erie Live Racing Consortium has once again applied for 40 race dates next year, which will run on Tuesdays and Sundays through to October 16.
Fort Erie Race Track remains open seven days a week for simulcast wagering, and features free monthly handicapping challenges in the offseason, beginning November 25.
For more information about the Fort Erie Race Track, visit www.forterieracing.com.