02/21/2003 1:00AM

Assiniboia: Early stakes dropped


The Grade 3, $100,000 Manitoba Derby, the richest race and only graded stakes of the meeting, heads a slightly revamped stakes schedule at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs this year.

There are 32 stakes this year, fewer than last year, but the total value of $1.2 million is up from last year.

The Victoria Day and G. Sydney Halter, which had been run in May, have been dropped from the calendar.

"Some of the horsemen had felt they were at a disadvantage for the May stakes," said Roy Miller, Assiniboia's racing secretary. "This will give them a chance to get a couple of runs around the track."

The Osiris Plate, a one-mile race for 2-year-olds which was contested on closing day last year, also has been cut.

"We weren't getting very good action in it," said Miller. "The market here running a mile for 2-year-olds just wasn't very good."

The Victoria Day, for fillies and mares, has been replaced by the La Verendrye, a one-mile race for fillies and mares on June 14. The La Verendrye will be worth $35,000; 20 other stakes on the schedule have had their purses raised from $30,000 to $35,000.

The 75-day Assiniboia Downs meeting will run from May 4 through Sept. 28, with racing Fridays through Sundays. There also will be racing on holiday Mondays May 19, Aug. 4, and Sept. 1, and Tuesdays in July and August, with the exception of Aug. 5.