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Friday August 4, 2000


FORT ERIE, Ontario - Monday's Expedite Plus Stakes, a five-furlong turf race for 3-year-olds and upward offering a $35,000-added purse, isn't just another local fixture. While it is restricted to horses who have started twice at Fort Erie in 2000 - just like the Benburb and Border Cup Stakes - the Expedite Plus takes the idea of corporate sponsorship to a new level. 

Victor Deschenes, president and CEO of Expedite Plus Inc., a worldwide emergency transportation service, originally committed $15,000 to the purse. But now he is adding another $25,000 for the inaugural running of the race, from which the competing jockeys will receive $15,000. That money will be distributed in the same manner as the purse: 60 percent to the winner, 20 percent to second, 10 percent to third, and so on, and it will be over and above the jockeys' usual fees. The other added $10,000 will go to the fans, in the form of prize money.

Fans will be invited to fill out entry forms before the race. Names will be drawn randomly during the card with each winner matched to a horse in the Expedite Plus. The prizes will then be paid in win, place, show fashion, according to the race results.

Deschenes and his wife, Rosanne, own 22 horses stabled at Fort Erie and Woodbine. Deschenes, who has owned Thoroughbreds for four years with some success, said he wants to give something back to the game "to the people who need it. Last year, I supplied jackets to the HBPA for backstretch workers."

Deschenes is a fan of the riders, who he believes are underpaid. "I'm trying to give them some recognition that both owners and trainers neglect," he said. Deschenes expects to enter two of his own horses in the Expedite Plus - Wild Rhythm and recent $40,000 claim Whistle Blower.

* Fort Erie's purses will rise dramatically Saturday as the track implements an increase of about 22 percent. The daily purse distribution has been raised to more than $110,000 from $90,000, thanks to the horsemen's 10 percent share of profits from 1,200 slot machines. A $4 million purse overpayment was retired over the winter following the opening of the slot operation in early September.

* Aiding and abetting this rise in purses are increases in ontrack and simulcast handle. Ontrack wagering is up nine percent while off track betting is up a remarkable 46 percent. Track owner Nordic Gaming, with the help of Ontario's HBPA, plans to open teletheatres in the Niagara area, which ranges from Grimsby, near Hamilton, to the U.S.-Canada border. Flamboro Downs, a Standard-bred track north of Hamilton, currently operates teletheatres in the Fort Erie jurisdiction.

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