05/19/2009 11:00PM

Allowance on tap as Marquis meet begins


Marquis Downs will welcome back live racing on Friday with an eight-race card which attracted a total of 66 horses.

I thought for a first card it was very good; the winter here s been terrible, said Rick Fior, racing manager for the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan oval.

We already have about 300 sets of papers in the office and I think by mid-June we ll be close to 350 to 400 horses to run two days a week.

The 30-day Marquis Downs meeting will run through Sept. 5, with racing on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 7:05 p.m. Central Standard. There will be no racing on Aug. 8 and Aug. 9.

Purses will remain at the same level as last year s, with the lowest the $3,000 offering for maidens.

The opening-day feature, which also will be the first race of the meeting, is a $5,000 allowance for fillies and mares.

Just Callme Blonde, a stakes winner here last year while fashioning a 2-2-2 record from seven starts, drew the outside post in the field of five.

The first two races on Friday will be run over six furlongs with the remainder contested at four furlongs.

Heading the stakes schedule are the $25,000 Prairie Lily on Aug. 29 and the $25,000 Saskatchewan Derby on closing day. Heritage Stakes Day, which features four $20,000 stakes restricted to Saskatchewan-breds, is another annual highlight and will take place on Aug. 15.

The local jockey colony is top-heavy with riders from Trinidad and Jamaica and includes new faces including Orville Beckford, Stanley Chadee Jr., Garfield Gordon, and Sheldon Rodrigo.

Tim Moccasin, the leading rider at Marquis through the past four seasons, most recently was competing at Lethbridge but is expected to reappear at some point during the meeting.

Russell Gardipy, the top trainer at the last two Marquis meetings, will be looking to extend that streak.