05/26/2004 12:00AM

New lights brighten up a richer 2004 meet

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SASKATOON, Saskatchewan - A purse increase of 13.6 percent over last year and solid fields for Friday's opening-day card will launch the 2004 live racing season on a positive note.

A total of 56 horses are slated to run in Friday's seven races, headlined by perennial local champ Beau Ring in the allowance feature for older horses. The increased purse money is the result of an increase in simulcast wagering over the winter.

Not only have the bottom purses been raised to $2,500 but Saskatoon Prairieland Park, operators of Marquis Downs, is also spending money to add lighting to the track's seven-furlong chute.

Since Marquis runs just evening cards, there had been some restrictions on running out of the chute for both Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse races. But the addition of lights should allow the chute to be used any time.

Friday and Saturday evening racing will be the rule for 30-day meet, which runs from May 28 to Sept. 11, with no racing on Aug. 13 and Aug. 14. Post time each night is 7:05 p.m.

There are a couple of new faces in the jockey quarters to go along with the usual cast of characters.

Rennie Latchman, Serge Rocheleau, and Tim Moccasin, last year's top three riders, headline the jockey colony. Also returning from last season are Duncan Gordon, Janice Seesequasis, Sheldon Chickeness, Hector Rabbitskin, and Andrew Moccasin.

Haniff Emamalle arrives from Trinidad, while Bernie Tourangeau was a regular at the Saskatchewan and Manitoba "B" meets.

Ten-pound apprentice Danny Seesequasis will get his first career mount in Friday's third race, and two or three more riders may appear over the next couple of weeks.

Last year's training title was a dead heat between Hubert Pilon and Don Bjarnarson, and both return with a sizeable stable. Other trainers with numbers are Bob Barr, Fern Zdunick, and George Gervais.

The highlights of the race meet include Heritage Day, on Aug. 21, which includes two $10,000 races for 2-year-old Saskatchewan-breds and two for 3-year-old Saskatchewan-breds; the $22,500 Prairie Lily Sales Stakes on Sept. 4, for graduates of last fall's yearling sale; and the $15,000 Saskatchewan Derby on the Sept. 11 closing-day card.

At a glance: Marquis Downs

RACING SCHEDULE: 30 Days; Fridays and Saturdays May 28 through Sept. 11, except Aug.13 and Aug. 14.

HIGHLIGHTS: $22,500 Prairie Lily, Sept. 4; $15,000 Saskatchewan Derby, Sept. 11; Heritage Stakes Day, four $10,000 stakes, Aug. 21

POST TIME: 7:05 p.m. Central Standard Time

ADMISSIONS: Free

PARKING: Free

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

PHONE: (306) 242-6100