02/20/2002 1:00AM

Assiniboia Downs track report

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TORONTO, Ontario - The Manitoba Derby, a Grade 3 race worth $100,000, once again anchors a 34-race stakes schedule offering a total of $1.15 million at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs.

The 75-day meeting, which will begin May 5, will feature overall purse increases of approximately $750,000 to $5.4 million. The increases were helped by the success of last year's live meeting, which had an 8 percent increase in handle and a 4 percent increase in attendance.

Stage Classic, based in Ontario, and Fancy As, bred in Manitoba but based in Alberta, finished one-two in last year's Manitoba Derby and went on to be finalists in the Sovereign Award voting for top 3-year-old male.

The 2002 edition of the Manitoba Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, will be run Aug. 5 on a program that also includes the Winnipeg Futurity, the Wheat City, and the Jack Hardy.

The $40,000 Winnipeg Futurity has been moved up in the schedule and shortened to six furlongs. The Futurity essentially has swapped dates and distances with the Osiris Plate, which now will be run over a mile on closing day, Sept. 29.