04/01/2009 11:00PM

Horses aplenty, but entries are light


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine, with a lucrative purse structure projected to average more than $500,000 daily, begins its 167-day Throughbred meeting Saturday.

The track received more than 4,300 applications this winter for its 2,170 available stalls. Approximately 250 trainers applied for stalls, and more than 200 were accommodated.

As of last count on Tuesday there were 1,812 horses on the grounds, as opposed to 1,751 at the same time last spring.

But the total number of entries was down for Saturday's 10-race program, as 88 horses were entered. Last year's opening-day program attracted 101 entries, and 91 horses went to the post.

"I'm not sure what happened this year," said Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary and a director of racing. "Maybe some of the trainers who have been in the United States are later getting back."

Lym noted that a first-level allowance that attracted nine horses last year did not fill, nor did a maiden $10,000 claiming race.

But the afternoon's feature, the $100,000 La Voyageuse, attracted seven entrants, the same number as in 2008. The field for the La Voyageuse, a five-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies, includes a newcomer to the circuit in Pretty Katherine. Based recently in Northern California with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Pretty Katherine arrived here earlier this week.

The La Voyageuse will go as the sixth race on a program that begins at 1 p.m. Eastern, which is the new first-race post time for Thursday through Sunday and holiday cards. Wednesday's races begin at 6:45 p.m.

Woodbine's television department will be airing two hours of live coverage of Saturday's program, beginning at 2 p.m. on SUN television network and including the fourth through seventh races.

This year's Saturday shows on SUN, which is available in most of Canada through satellite and cable services, also will include coverage of a second Thoroughbred track, which for the first three weeks will be Keeneland.

There will be racing here Sunday, and Fridays join the schedule next week. Wednesday racing begins April 29 and Thursdays will be added on June 4.

Next Saturday's feature will be the $150,000 Achievement, a six-furlong race for Ontario-foaled 3-year-olds which is the first stakes stepping-stone on the road to the June 21 Queen's Plate.

* Heading into opening weekend the total number of workouts was running at approximately the same pace as last year, according to head clocker Alison Read.

"Last weekend was our biggest this year," said Read, noting that 218 horses worked over the main track on Saturday and 172 on Sunday.

The dirt training track opened on Feb. 27 and the main Polytrack surface on March 14.