02/13/2007 12:00AM

Bison City moving to Woodbine

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The $250,000 Bison City Stakes, a fixture at Fort Erie for most of its existence, now will be run at Woodbine.

The Bison City, a 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-old fillies which is the second leg of the Canadian triple tiara, did not fit in with Fort Erie's reduced purse structure this year and an agreement was made to move the race back to Woodbine.

The Bison City, inaugurated at Fort Erie in 1954, was run here from 1977 through 1979.

The change was the most significant on the schedule of 102 stakes races, worth an aggregate $22.1 million, which will be run over the course of the 167-day meeting which is slated to begin March 31 and end Dec. 9.

The Woodbine backstretch reopened on Feb. 1 and the Polytrack surface opened for training last Sunday, with the training track scheduled to be available next month.

The stakes schedule, released Tuesday by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, has been tweaked only slightly from that of recent seasons.

The Grade 2, $300,000 Dance Smartly, a 1 1/8-mile turf race for fillies and mares, has been moved back two weeks and will be contested this year on July 22.

The move puts the Dance Smartly on the same Sunday card as the Grade 2, $700,000 Northern Dancer; the $125,000 Bold Venture, and the $125,000 Ontario Matron.

"We're hoping we can turn that day into something really special," said Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary. "We're trying to group more races together, and set up big weekends."

The only other significant date shift on the schedule involves the $125,000 Ballade, a six-furlong race for Ontario-sired fillies and mares that has been moved back two weeks to June 23.

Two Woodbine stakes races also have undergone grade changes, with the $125,000 Kennedy Road having been granted Grade 3 status and the Ontario Derby losing its Grade 3 tag and having its purse cut by $50,000 to $150,000.

Woodbine will host 31 of the 37 graded stakes races run in Canada this year, including all three of the Grade 1 and all nine of the Grade 2 events.

Five Grade 3 stakes will be at Hastings in Vancouver, including the $250,000 British Columbia Derby, and one, the $300,000 Canadian Derby, will be hosted by Northlands Park.

Heading the Canadian graded stakes list are the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International; the Grade 1, $1 million, E.P. Taylor Stakes, and the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile.

One graded stakes has undergone a name change, with the Woodbine Slots Cup returning to its roots as the Autumn and retaining its Grade 3 status.

Canada's graded stakes races are recognized internationally for sales cataloging purposes.

To qualify, races must carry a minimum purse of $250,000 for Grade 1; $150,000 for Grade 2; and $100,000 for Grade 3.

Restricted races do not qualify for graded status.