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Friday, June 08, 2007


(thanks to the reader who sent along the following link)

Courtesy Niagara Review
Story by Wayne Creighton

FORT ERIE -- As a youngster Gord Barnhardt would leave his home in the west end of Fort Erie, make his way to the track and meet the race train bringing thousands of fans from Toronto eager to place a bet.

Barnhardt sold J.J. Walker's tip sheets for 50 cents and welcomed his customers to the spring and summer meets with a lively jingle which he can still recite today, more than 50 years later. When he was old enough, Barnhardt parked cars at the track and has worked as a hot walker and a groom and even spent a few years on the starting gate.

After retiring from the town of Fort Erie's parks department 10 years ago, Barnhardt returned to the track as a security guard.

"This place has been a big part of my life and has meant a lot to the town over the years. A lot of people have worked here. It's a great place," said Barnhardt.

Memories of the race train, Northern Dancer, Puss N Boots, Dance Smartly Benburb ... just to mention a few are sure to reverberate throughout the track Sunday when the venerable facility celebrates it's 110th anniversary in conjunction with the town's sesquicentennial.

The very first race at Fort Erie was run June 16, 1897 and won by Ellsmere with Wordsworth second and Miss Lillian third. The winner received $300 while second place was worth $75 and third paid $25.

In 1961, Puss N Boots astonished a large crowd of more than 14,000 fans when he ducked through an opening in the turf course hedge, then unseated jockaey Ronnie Behrens and slid into one of Fort Erie's infield lakes. The horse enjoyed a leisurely swim before being brought back to shore by members of the starting gate crew, many of whom stripped down to their underwear before jumping in the water.

The memory is kept alive today with the Puss N Boots Stakes and the winning jockey and owners traditionally take a swim themselves.

Just a couple of years later, on August 2, 1963, Northern Dancer broke his maiden with a win in the second race on that day's card.

Daryl Wells and before him his father Daryl Wells Sr. called races at Fort Erie for decades and Daryl Wells Jr., now the track's media and communications director, has fond memories of a place that has become like a second home to him.

"My most memorable moment is my dad coming home and asking me if I would like to call races. I was 16 and still in high school. I will never forget that day," said Wells.

"I remember calling my first race, my dad stood behind me and whispered in my ear who the horses were and we got through it."

Wells began calling thoroughbred races at Fort Erie in 1977, but his memories of the race track date back even further.

"I was about five or six I guess and I would tag along to the track with dad. Fort Erie has been in my blood ever since I could walk and jump in the car. I would sit in the booth with him and watch him call the races. Then to follow in his footsteps was unbelievable. How many people get to do that."

Wells recalled the media comparing him and his dad to legendary hockey announcers Foster and Bill Hewitt.

"I did a kid's show on a Little Rock, Arkansas radio station with (jockey) Bill Shoemaker when I was 17," said Wells.

Sam McComb rode Good Ole Mort to victory in the 1965 Prince of Wales and at the age of 78 can still be found sweeping stalls in Fort Erie's backstretch.

McComb remembers riding his first winner in 1948 in his native Ireland.

However, it wasn't a victory that McComb says was his biggest thrill.

"I had the best view of Northern Dancer winning the Queen's Plate in 1964 when he went whizzing by me in the homestretch," said McComb who was aboard runner-up Langcrest who finished second at 57-1

McComb has more than just memories of that race, winning jockey Bill Hartack gave him his whip after the race and McComb still has it.

"It's not like he needed it," smiled McComb.

McComb still trains a couple of horses and enjoys spending time with his family at the track, noting that they like to make it fun.

He says racing certainly isn't what it used to be when he was riding.

"At Woodbine everyday was like Queen's Plate day and the grandstands were packed. If you left your seat, you didn't get it back. "There's so much missing these days," said McComb.

Jim Nemett has been involved in racing for more than 50 years, doing everything from working as a groom and hot walker to training horses and working as a race official.

He says the people at the track are dedicated to the sport and have a passion for the business.

"I still get excited on race day," said Nemett. If you're in at a young age you become passionate about it and it's tough to get out of your system. "I've tried other things ... the last few years I enjoyed being an official but you get that longing to be down there."

Nemett is hopeful that Fort Erie will remain open for several more years to come.

"It's one of the most beautiful race tracks any where," said Nemett. "There's so much tradition here."

Post time Sunday is 1:05 p.m.

*THOROUGHBLOG does reserve the right to delete any comments, especially those from behind the cloak of "anonymous" that go over the line - because of language, rudeness or otherwise. I try to leave in most comments even those that are critical of the site...but repetitive ones will get deleted.

Welcome to Friday morning, on the cusp on some big racing events including the BELMONT STAKES tomorrow and the LABATT WOODBINE OAKS on Sunday.

Commenting on THOROUGHBLOG did take somewhat of a wicked turn in the last 24 hours as Fort Erie folks stand up for their track. Even THOROUGHBLOG is getting a rough go.

But, wow, 40 comments on the one post, that is a record for THOROUGHBLOG, which was posting for the 348th time yesterday after 14 months in existence.

Thank you to those folks who sent in comments yesterday and put their names with the notes.

Most were good, respectful comments and ideas although the topic has been blown out of proportion somewhat. It all began with my response to why COLD WAR had not been mentioned in THOROUGHBLOG'S Thursday morning racing re-cap. (Beep beep beep). That's the only reason this topic exploded. But it is good to hear the voices and opinions of those who are sensible, even critical, in a mature manner.

The animosity between the horsemen at both tracks is not quite as prononounced as some Anonymous people on the site have made it seem. Again, only an opinion.

This is a personal site where opinions matter, even if they are sent in anonymously. And people are allowed to have an opinion, change an opinion etc.

Stanley Cup back in Canada? Funny question in the midst of the madness yesterday. Who knows...I would guess not for a couple of years.


Racing doubles for a few folks at Woodbine for the first THURSDAY card of racing.

HILL 'N' DALE FARMS (Ontario) bred the first-time starting 2yo, DONERAILE GEM, that won the first race for $50,000 claiming. The Doneraile Court colt is out of classy turf mare Genuine Emerald, by Unduplicated. John Cardella had the colt very ready to run down speedster LEWICKI to win for Glen Arbre Farms and partners.
Hill 'n' Dale (Ontario) also bred DISTINGUISHED LADY (my best bet yesterday) who won the last race for maiden fillies for $32,000. The Smart Strike - Distinguish Forum, Shankeite filly was making her 3rd start of the year for trainer Mike Doyle, who co-owns with Dura Racing Stable.

Jockey JUSTIN STEIN, who rides the imposing SASKAWEA in the Oaks on Sunday, won a pair - on YOUSAIDIDO for 3yo fillies for $50K in race 2 and ARCHIEMAN, for non-winners of 2 for $20K.

Trainer JOHN ROSS won with ARCHIEMAN (Exploit) and maiden winner WELL WHOOPDEEDOO (Albert the Great) on the card to jump to 7 winners on the season.


The prep for the DOMINION DAY STAKES is today and it is a small field but has attracted 2 champions from last year so that spices up a Friday afternoon.
SHILLELAGH SLEW, looking for more speed to run at and more distance (he gets 9 furlongs today) will try and run down TRUE METROPOLITAN, who figures to go off as favourite.
The former was the 3yo champ of 2006 and the latter was the older horse champ.

MET'S trainer TERRY JORDAN has THAT'S AN OUTRAGE in race 2 for $40K claiming (older horses, non-winners of 3) and that Quiet American gelding looks very strong in the small field.

A cozy maiden allowance event (A level) in race 3 is another chance for Kinghaven Farms' PROPHETICALLY to win her maiden after she lost 9 days ago at odds-on. Trainer MIKE SILVERA has a nice beginner in the race - GABRIELLE'S CHARM - an Eltish filly and a half-sister to stakes winning speedball REBECCA'S CHARM and winning machine Gigi's Charm.

Maiden colts in the 5th (B level) has lured a big field including the well bred FLEETS DREAM, who closed fast in his career debut.

Another featured race is the 6th as the A.P. Indy filly SERENADING tries for her 2nd consecutive win after taking her maiden last time out. The Kentucy-bred meets up with the improving IMEANSERIOUSLY (Ecton Park), bred by Gardiner Farms.

Hot and steamy weather today should make for a bouncy and fast Polytrack.


Urban Male Magazine hosts a party in the trackside tent at Woodbine on Oaks day that includes a bikini contest.
Other Oaks events include a CHANTAL SUTHERLAND autograph session and a mug giveaway.
On THE SCORE on Sunday, jockey JIM MCALENEY, still sidelined with a badly injured leg, will be a guest host on the Oaks broadcast that begins at 4:30.

The Todd Pletcher trainees were expected to land at Woodbine this morning. Pletcher told THOROUGHBLOG that BELLEPLAINE is running very well and has blossomed since stretching out in distance just as her full sister, INDIAN VALE did. John Velazquez will ride.
CHRISTIES TREASURE, bred by Cam Allard, has never race don anything but the grass but has trained fast on the Arlington Polytrack. Garret Gomez will ride.

British Columbia-bred SUVA has been here for a couple of weeks and has taken to the Polytrack know. the VYING VICTOR filly has loads of class and stakes winners in her
pedigree and while she's light in the Beyer Figure department, the distance suits.


  • At 8:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "THOROUGHBLOG does reserve the right to delete any comments under the cloak of "anonymous" that go over the line"

    TRANSLATION: When the heat gets too hot and I can't back up statements I make...I will delete!!!

  • At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Cangamble said…

    I have comment moderation on my blog to prevent cyber-stalking:) Jen, maybe you should turn it on for now.

  • At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    If you can't take the heat...

    get out of the kitchen. She slammed everyone associated with the Fort for no reason adn then ran a way like a little girl.

    If you are going to make such bold statements...STAND BEHIND THEM!

  • At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Cangamble said…

    She is taking a lot of heat, and she could easily delete all negative comments if she wanted to. She does deserve the heat though. She said something stupid on impulse, just like Fernandes did.

  • At 9:34 AM, Blogger Handride said…

    how credible is an "anonymous" note? And you she could have ignored it, and no one would know about the post, but instead she wrote about it today to draw even more attention to it. If you're anonymous you're a coward in my book

  • At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Here is a great article published today in the Niagara newspapers today about Fort Erie...this is a lovely story...enjoy.

  • At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "if you're anonymous, your a coward in my book"

    90% of the comments on this board are "anonymous" Does that make everyone a coward or just the ones that call out the lack of integrity of Ms. Morrison?

  • At 10:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cangamble: thats the thing.

    she wants fines and an apology from Mr. Fernandes yet can't bring herself to apologize to the people at Fort Erie.

    i know she contends "of course I didn't mean everyone at Fort Erie" but saying "Mr. Fernandes is the reason Fort Erie CAN NOT and SHOULD NOT be televised, sure sounds like she is taring everybody. remember she even started by saying "i don't want to offend anyone at Fort Erie"

    then just to add another kick in the gut she added "if Woodbine wanted to promote Fort Erie...they wouldn't have sold it" nobody associated with this sport believes in this statement and knows that the reason Fort erie was sold had nothing to do with "not wanting to promote it" so that was a bold face lie. If everyone remembers the sale of the Fort and Greenwood at the time was done for no other reason than Woodbine was swimming in debt.

    so because of 1 comment by 1 person she decided to trash everyone. comes down to integrity. or in this lack of it.

  • At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Nick said…

    They're called "Anonymous Cowards" on /. for a reason. It means nothing to say that 90% of the comments are anonymous when for all we know 90% of them are the same person.

    In any case, it's her blog and she's free to do and say what she wants with it. If that's a problem feel free to move on.

  • At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Vern Fernades is a butcher iam from fort erie hes horses arnt treated as good as u think. He is greedy. You really have to think about where it came from . SOmebody with no heart or class

  • At 8:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Regarding the last comment.....are you retarded

  • At 8:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What is the difference between "Anonymous" and "Nick"?

    It's just as anonymous, so by your reasoning, you sir would be a coward.

    see how ridiculous the "anonymous coward" logic is.

  • At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Terri R. said…

    I have been reading you blog for quite a while, and have enjoyed getting information that is not readily available from other sites, especially information on the horses in the backstretch at Woodbine.

    However, I have been quite disappointed recently that there is less content and more opionions.

    I know it is your blog, and you and your readers would post as you and they wish.

    I just hope that your format will soon return to what I think makes your blog one of the better ones around, and that is all that inside infomation that is hard to find elsewhere.

  • At 1:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am a 26 year old male who is new to thoroughbred racing.I started playing the horses thinking there was money to be made!I thought maybe i wasn't making money because i wasn't any good.So I googled and researched for successful handicappers!In the history of racing(120years) there doesn't seem to be ONE!Jen Morrison,do you make money BETTING the horses?If not,do you know someone that does.

  • At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Cangamble said…

    Dude, you have no chance to make money betting horses in the long run with track take-outs as high as they are, unless you hit a 100,000 super seven and quit betting right after that.
    There are alternatives. You can open up an account with an offshore rebate shop. Betfair gives a player a chance to make money in the long run.
    But overall, the racing industry is stuck in middle 20th Century mentality. They expect people to come and blow their money while giving even the most knowledgeable gambler no chance of beating the game.
    The only winners I know of today are those who bet with Betfair or offshore rebate shops.

  • At 6:40 PM, Anonymous Terri R said…

    To Anonymous on the above comment:

    I never said what you read, it may pay for you to take a course in reading, or get new glasses. (Besides, my name is with an "i", not a "y").

    I said that I like the inside information, such as which horses are injured, which horses have been retired, horses that have broken down in training, which we never get elsewhere.

    I said that I did NOT like the rash of opinions which were prevailing here.


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