05/25/2011 2:04PM

Marquis Downs: Track's signal will be available throughout Canada


The 30-day Marquis Downs meetin g will be off to a flying start Friday, with a total of 78 horses entered for the eight-race program.

Rick Fior, manager of live racing for the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan oval, was more than pleased with the response to his opening card.

“I think it’s a strong as I’ve seen,” said Fior, adding that the horse population currently stands at about 325 but will reach more than 500 as the meeting progresses.

“The last three or four years, we’ve been at capacity by the end of June,” added Fior.

Wagering on Marquis Downs has never been available other than on-site and at local teletheatres but this year the track will be available to customers of Woodbine’s HorsePlayer Interactive program across most of Canada.

Saskatchewan account holders will be able to wager on their home track and all other tracks offered by HPI by telephone or internet.

“That’s the big news here this year,” said Fior, explaining that the signal will be streamed on the Marquis Downs website but will not be shown on HorsePlayer Interactive.

Meanwhile, Marquis Downs is beginning the meeting with 12 riders on the grounds.

“Christopher Jadoo, who’s from Trinidad, is back after a two-year-hiatus,” said Fior.

“And apprentice Christopher Fung, who is Jamaican and has ridden at Assiniboia and in Alberta, is new here.”

Neville Stephenson, leading rider in 2009 and third in the standings last year, has yet to return but he and a few others are expected to soon join the colony.

“We’ll have 15 or 16 riders here by the time they all get in,” said Fior.

The $25,000 Saskatchewan Derby, the traditional feature of the Marquis Downs meeting, is an open 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds and will be run on closing day, Sept. 30.

Other stakes highlights include the $15,000 Prairie Lily, for graduates of the local yearling sale, on Sept. 9 and four $12,500 Heritage Stakes for Saskatchewan-breds on Aug. 27.

The stakes schedule has not been finalized but 13 other stakes worth lesser amounts are expected to be offered.

Fior says that almost $1 million in total purses will be distributed at the meeting. Racing will be conducted on Fridays and Saturdays with the exception of Aug. 12 and Aug. 13.