04/29/2004 11:00PM

Handful of new faces


WINNIPEG, Manitoba - Some new names will greet fans when the 2004 meeting at Assiniboia Downs begins Sunday, as five of last year's top 10 jockeys will not be present on opening day.

Newcomers Orlando Martinez and Vince Guerra, currently 14th and 17th in the Turf Paradise jockey standings, should make an impact here.

Also, apprentices Keveh Nichols, from Barbados, and Nadia Dohnlova, a native of the Czech Republic, make their local debuts on Sunday's eight-race card.

Trainer Valorie Lund, who has won 16 races and finished in the money with 45 percent of her 138 starters at Turf Paradise's current meet, should make a favorable impression locally.

Greg Tracy, leading trainer here in 1998, has returned and is expected to have another successful meet.

The top three trainers here from last season - Gary Danelson, five-time leading trainer Ardell Sayler, and Tom Gardipy Jr. - should all have solid seasons.

Approximately $5.5 million in purse money will be distributed over the 75-day meeting, for a daily average of $73,000.

The majority of stakes races have been increased to $40,000 guaranteed, up from $35,000 last year.

The highlight of the meeting is the Manitoba Derby, to be run Aug. 2. The derby's purse has been reduced from $100,000 to $75,000 and the race has lost its Grade 3 status.

Also to run on the derby day card are the Winnipeg Futurity for 2-year-olds, Jack Hardy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and Wheat City Stakes for older horses.

Other highlights of the stakes schedule include the Oct. 2 Matron Breeders' Cup and the Oct. 3 Gold Breeders' Cup, both valued at $65,000.

In an effort to increase field size, seven-furlong races, which have been limited to eight starters, have been replaced by 7 1/2-furlong races, which will have a maximum of 12 entrants.

Post times will be 1 p.m. Sundays and holidays and 7 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and four Tuesdays in July and August.

At a glance: Assiniboia

RACING SCHEDULE: 75 days; Sunday through Oct. 3; racing Fridays through Sundays; racing also on holiday Mondays, May 24, Aug. 2, and Sept. 6; Tuesdays, July 13, July 20, Aug. 10, and Aug. 17; Thur., July 1

POST TIME: 7 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays; 1 p.m. Sundays, holidays

HIGHLIGHTS: $75,000 Manitoba Derby, Aug. 2; $65,000 Matron Breeders' Cup, Oct. 2; $65,000 Gold Breeders' Cup, Oct. 3

ADMISSIONS: General, free; clubhouse, $2

PARKING: General, free; clubhouse, $2

SLOTS: 140 machines, 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily

LOCATION: 3975 Portage Ave., at Perimeter Hwy, Winnipeg, Manitoba

PHONE: (204) 885-3330; results line (204) 831-0321

INTERNET: www.assiniboiadowns.com