05/25/2010 11:00PM

Barns near capacity as Marquis begins 30-day run

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There should be no horse shortage at Marquis Downs, which opens its 2010 meeting Friday evening.

A total of 71 horses were entered for Friday's eight-race card at the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan oval including full fields of 10 in four races.

"The barns will be full," said Rick Fior, general manager of racing for Marquis Downs, which has stalls for 550 horses.

Marquis Downs will be conducting its usual 30-day meeting, with racing on Friday and Saturday evenings beginning at 7:05 p.m. with the exception of Aug. 13 and Aug. 14, when the chuckwagon races take over.

Highlights include the Heritage Stakes Day program, with six stakes for Saskatchewan-breds with total purses of $100,000 on Aug. 28; the $25,000 Prairie Lily, for 2-year-old graduates of the province's yearling sale, on Sept. 10; and the $25,000 Saskatchewan Derby, the traditional closing day feature for 3-year-olds on Sept. 11.

Russell Gardipy, Wendy Anderson, and Don Bjarnason were the top three trainers in races won here last year and all have horses on the opening-day program.

The jockey colony has been boosted by the addition of two riders from Trinidad. Apprentice Shastri Singh has two calls on opening day and Lorne Keizer, who rode at Hastings several years back, is expected to check in later this week.

Tim Moccasin, a former leading rider, will be starting out his season in Saskatoon after beginning his campaign last year on the Alberta "B" circuit and moving to Marquis Downs in September.

Fior also is looking forward to Marquis Downs presenting superfecta wagering for the first time.

"The fields are big enough for us to offer one or two a night," said Fior, who designated

Friday's fifth and seven races as superfecta events.

Marquis Downs does not export its signal to other tracks. Fior says that the technology costs would outweigh the benefits. Marquis does import simulcast signals from tracks across North America.

Purses get a boost from wagering at offtrack outlets in Saskatoon, Regina, Prince Albert, and Swift Current, plus a cut of the take from 12 video lottery terminals at the Saskatoon location.