Saturday, 09 August 2014 00:01

Frank Fontana: Pro Handicapper for the Edmonton Sun

Written by Shannon 'Sugar' Doyle
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Frank Fontana, 58, was born and raised in Edmonton and he's seen many a great horse race at Northlands Park over the years. "My Uncle Louie took me to the track, for my Birthday, when I was 12. I just fell in love with everything about the horse races."

Through the years Fontana has had many favourites on the race track in Edmonton. "In harness As Promised, E J Bullet and Tajma Hall were certainly right up there, while on the thoroughbred side horses like Fancy As, No Hesitation and Broadway Empire have left me with a good feeling as well." 

Fontana enjoys both thoroughbred and harness racing and is well-versed in each... He's been posting 'Franks Favourites' (Selections) in the Edmonton Sun on race days for almost 15 years. "I took over that role from a retiring Gary Cooper... I've also enjoyed writing feature articles for Canadian Thoroughbred magazine."

"My favourite websites are all horse racing related and I view them daily. I have 100 horses in my 'virtual' stable and many of them are 2-year-olds... I'm very fond of the young horses. There's so much potential in them and most will normally run lasix-free."

The Canadian Derby is just about one week away and although it's a huge day for racing in Alberta, Fontana says his favourite day at the races is Fall Classic Day. "That day features lots of local talent, there are plenty of different classes and it celebrates the Alberta bred."

When it comes to jockeys Rico Walcott, Scott Williams and Quincy Welch are at the top of Frank's list, with conditioners Greg Tracy, Dale Saunders and Dale Greenwood topping his trainer ranks.

With Derby Day then just around the corner how long will Frank spend handicapping that day's full card of racing? "I'll likely spend 3 to 4 hours on making my selections. It's a long race card. More races, with bigger fields and new horses shipping in. I'll likely catch the special Derby post position draw and the Derby Preview to help pick up on a few things. More info is key and knowledge is power!"

So with 16 nominees for the Canadian Derby - people want to know... How many of the nominees should we expect to see in the actual 'Run for the Daisies'?

"I'm thinking a shorter field this time around," responds Fontana. "A bulky field, on the bull ring, does not do this race justice, so I'd be fine with seeing a field of 9 in there."

Any early touting yet Frank? "I really like the local hopeful The Spinmeister. He just romped in the Count Lathum... I’m also intrigued by Robertino Diodoro's Edison – a recent winner of the Manitoba Derby prep. And then I like the lone filly nominee Consecrate for Greg Tracy, but she's also nominated for the Sonoma on Derby Day. I just like that filly regardless..."

Your favourite Canadian Derby of all time Frank? "Without a doubt... Freedoms Traveller winning in 2011. A feel good story for all the connections and for all of horse racing in Alberta."

Fontana: Outside of Racing

Outisde of racing Fontana enjoy acting in movies. "I've been an extra in 15 movies shot in and around Edmonton," he says. "I've worked next to people like Patrick Swayze, Carmen Electra, Margot Kidder, Lorraine Bracco, Tom Green, Sam Shepard and Christopher Lloyd. It's an absolute thrill to be involved with things behind the scenes - watching a movie come together is really something else," he continued. "The ultimate satisfaction is seeing myself on the big screen, when the movie comes out, while my ultimate goal would be to one day play a mobster... I've been told I look like a young Tony Soprano," said a chuckling Fontana.

Racing Needs?

"Crowds are smaller and the on-track handle is way down. Casinos, lotteries and online gambling have taken people away," says Fontana. "Tracks have to attract the younger generations... You look around and there are a lot of older people in attendance. When they're gone - who'll replace them? Maybe less time between races, cheaper food and drinks, more promotions and giveaways - they would all go a long way in bringing younger people to the track."

What about the current 'regular' betting customer - how do we keep them happy? "Senior Management should know their regulars and if they don't - they should work a little harder at that," states Fontana. "And at the same time, tracks need to provide those 'regular' customers with more incentive/perks to maintain their 'regular' status at the race track."

A known 'regular', you can normally find Frank Fontana at Uplinks or relaxing on the tarmac when visiting Northlands Park. He'll even make it out to the winner's circle now and then to celebrate with trainer friends. If you see him say hi - he’s a friendly guy who likes to talk about the horses in Alberta.

Read 5086 times Last modified on Saturday, 09 August 2014 01:17