02/22/2011 12:26PM

Canadian International, Northern Dancer take purse cuts for Woodbine's 2011 meet


ETOBICOKE, Ontario – The purses of both the Canadian International and its major prep race, the Northern Dancer, have been reduced for this year’s upcoming meeting at Woodbine Racetrack.

The stakes schedule, released Tuesday by the Woodbine Entertainment Group, will feature 102 stakes worth a total of more than $21.6 million.

The Canadian International, formerly worth $2 million, now will offer a $1.5 million purse and the Northern Dancer goes from $750,000 to $500,000.

“We needed to cut some purses,” said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for Woodbine, adding that an overall reduction of approximately 2 percent has been planned.

“Even though our handle was up last year a lot of that increase was coming from outside Ontario, which means lower commissions for us, and the contribution to the purse account was minimal.”

The Canadian International had its purse increased to $2 million in 2005 when the Canadian dollar was worth slightly more than 80 cents compared with its U.S. counterpart. The two currencies lately have been close in value and Lym said he believes a $1.5 million Canadian International will be well able to hold its own on the international front.

“It’s a marquee race, and the Northern Dancer is still a big race at $500,000,” said Lym.

The Canadian International and its regular companion features, the E.P. Taylor and Nearctic, also will be moving back to a Sunday date after being run on Saturday for the last two years to accommodate ESPN telecasts.

“We always had better attendance on Sunday,” said Lym. “People had gotten used to having it on that day.”

Woodbine’s other six-figure races, the $1 million Queen’s Plate and the $1 million Woodbine Mile, again anchor Sunday programs.

The Queen’s Plate, which was moved to July 4 last year to accommodate a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, will be run on June 26 this year and the major preps, including the Plate Trial and Woodbine Oaks, also will be run one week earlier on the June 5 card.

The Queen’s Plate and the Woodbine Oaks, which both closed Feb. 1 and will require additional payments on May 1, are the only remaining early-closing stakes on the schedule.

The Coronation Futurity, Cup and Saucer, and Princess Elizabeth, which formerly were early-closing stakes, now will require just one payment.

In other changes:

◗ The Connaught Cup, formerly a Grade 3 race, will offer Grade 2 status this year. For 4-year-olds and upward, the Connaught Cup is the first turf stakes of the meeting and again will be run at seven furlongs after being shortened to that distance last year.

◗ The Ontario Matron, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares; the Ontario Colleen, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-old fillies; and the Valedictory, a 1 3/4-mile race for 3-year-olds and upward, have been elevated to Grade 3 status.

◗ The Mazarine, a 1 1/16 mile race for 2-year-old fillies, was a Grade 3 but now will be a listed stakes.

◗ The Hill ‘n’ Dale, a $100,000 race for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, will not be offered this year. Lym said he hopes to replace the Hill ‘n’ Dale with a comparable overnight stakes.