A boom in attendance helped launch the Fort Erie Race Track to enormous wagering numbers for its first Sunday card of the season on Father’s Day. Before the action could begin, the track had to deal with a curve ball in the form of Gareth, a rescue dog who had been recently rehomed by one of the families living near the track property, but had escaped days earlier and was found running around the oval just as the first horses hit the dirt. With the help of a few strips of bacon, track staff worked quickly to wrangle the pup and reunite him with the owners.
With the dog chase out of the way, the horses again took centre stage and ran the track to a massive $1.4 million in total wagering for the day, which is up 189 per cent compared to last year’s Father’s Day card. A major driver was the 79 per cent increase in on-track wagering, where crowds at the track also helped push food and beverage to a 37 per cent increase in sales over last year.
“Father’s Day has historically been one of the biggest days of our entire meet, and Sunday was no exception,” said James Culic, the track’s communications manager. “Heading to the races in Fort Erie with your old man has long been a tradition in Niagara, and we saw plenty of multi-generational families enjoying the beautiful weather, the fast horses, and other things like our vendor market.”
While the action on the oval was fast and ran like a well-oiled machine, track management are aware that everything didn’t go perfectly all day in some places.
“Yes, the lines for beer or a hot dog were very long,” said Culic, who explained that once the track reaches around 10,000 in attendance, as it did on Father’s Day, it’s right at the upper limit of what the track can handle in terms of food and beverage staffing. “Every bar and food stand that we have was open, and every bit of staff we had was working hard to keep the lines moving as quick as manageable. We also brought in numerous food trucks to help with the lines but the trucks too were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd.”
Every other race day of the season, patrons can quickly and easily grab a drink or some food with minimal waiting, but Father’s Day always presents a unique challenge due to the large crowd.
Long longs aside, attendance remained strong throughout the entire eight-race card, and the crowds were filled with a mix of people who have been going to Father’s Day at the Fort Erie Race Track with their dads as a family tradition for decades, and many new faces who were making their very first trip the historic border oval with their pops.
Fort Erie Race Track also debuted two new $30,000 stakes races this year for Father’s Day. The Longrun Thoroughbred Retirement Stakes, and the Longrun After Care Stakes are both named in honour of Longrun, an organization which finds new homes for retired race horses. The track will keep the momentum going with a trio of upcoming events, including a free concert with The Trip on June 27, a family day event on the Canada Day long weekend on July 3, and the ever-popular Wiener Dog Race day on July 16.
For a full schedule of this season’s event, visit www.forterieracing.com