05/25/2005 12:00AM

Meet opens with several positive signs


SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - There is an air of optimism not seen for many years here at Marquis Downs as the 2005 Thoroughbred season begins Friday night.

Strong wagering in 2004 has helped increase purses by 20 percent, raising the bottom purse levels at the meet from $2,500 to $3,000.

There are already more than 350 horses on the grounds, with 63 entered for the opening night seven-race card. Race manager Rick Fior expects the horse population to exceed 400 in the next couple of weeks.

The jockey colony also looks strong as Serge Rocheleau returns to defend his riding title against locals Tim Moccasin, Duncan Gordon, Danny Seesequasis, and Janice Seesequasis.

Rennie Latchman and Haniff Emamalie return from Trinidad, and they've brought another couple of jockeys with them in Anderson Stephen and Niam Sameroo.

The Prairie Lily Sales Stakes on Sept. 3 is the meet's richest race, with a purse of $22,500 for 2-year old graduates of the 2004 Saskatchewan yearling sale.

The $15,000 Saskatchewan Derby will be run on Sept. 10, while Heritage Day is set for Aug. 20 and offers four $10,000 races for Saskatchewan-bred 2- and 3-year-olds.

The 30-day meet runs through Sept. 10, with racing held each Friday and Saturday night with a 7 p.m. Central post time. There is no racing Aug. 12 and 13.

Best of 2004 honored

The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association awards for the local 2004 season were given out last weekend. Joining leading jockey Serge Rocheleau on the podium were trainers Don Bjarnarson and Hubert Pilon, who finished in a tie.

Double Time was the Saskatchewan horse of the year, while Beau Ring was top older horse. Other honors went to Picture the Answer, older filly or mare; Steel Copy, 3-year-old; Allourwishes, 3-year-old filly; Fargo Forbes, 2-year-old; Sheen Sky, 2-year old filly; and Year of the Fox, claimer of the year.

* The local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society also recognized the best Saskatchewan-breds of 2004.

The winners were Gordon Alger, breeder; Steel Copy, horse of the year and 3-year old; Rumbeau Ruckus, 2-year-old filly; Fargo Forbes, 2-year-old colt or gelding; Luckyinthelead, 3-year-old filly; Beau Ring, older male; Picture the Answer, older filly or mare; Royal Quiz, stallion; and Seven L Dandy, broodmare.

At a glance: Marquis Downs

RACING SCHEDULE: 30 days; Friday through Sept. 10. Fridays and Saturdays except Aug.12 and Aug. 13

HIGHLIGHTS: $22,500 Prairie Lily, Sept. 3; $15,000 Saskatchewan Derby, Sept. 10; Heritage Day, four $10,000 stakes, Aug. 20

POST TIME: 7 p.m. Central.



LOCATION: Prairieland Park, Ruth St. & St. Henry Ave. Saskatoon, Sask.

PHONE: (306) 242-6100

INTERNET: marquisdowns.com