06/20/2006 11:00PM

New meet, new names

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EDMONTON, Alberta - With a new name and a fresh new look, Northlands Park launches its 72-date Thoroughbred season Friday evening.

The racetrack's parent company, the Northlands Exhibition Association, has rebranded itself Capital Ex, ending an affiliation with Klondike Days that began in 1962. The name Capital Ex, which emphasizes Edmonton's role as capital of the province, was chosen by a company hired by the Northlands Exhibition Association, which was seeking a new name that would better convey the spirit of the many special events - horse races, trade shows, and festivals - held each year on the exhibition grounds. Northlands is also continuing its multi-year renovation program.

The new branding effort means that the Klondike Handicap, which would have had its 51st running this year, has been renamed the City of Edmonton Championship. The $50,000 Championship will be run at 1 1/16 miles on closing day of the summer fair, which will be held July 20-29 this year.

The 34-event stakes schedule will closely mirror the 2005 season, with a minimum stakes purse of $50,000. The highlights of the summer will be the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 26 and the $100,000 Speed to Spare for older horses on Sept. 9, with both races going at 1 3/8 miles.

The Canadian Derby seems assured of luring Halo Steven, winner of last Saturday's Alberta Derby at Stampede Park. Halo Steven is scheduled to return home to Vancouver for two stakes, then ship to Northlands.

One stakes, the Northlands Oaks for 3-year-old fillies on July 22, will have its purse raised to $100,000. The distance of the Northlands Oaks has been increased from a mile to 1 1/16 miles and will be included in Horse Racing Alberta's nine-day television schedule on Alberta's CTV network.

The 1 1/16-mile Sonoma, another $100,000 stakes for 3-year-old fillies, is scheduled for Aug. 12.

Fall Classics Day, which will feature seven stakes for Alberta-breds, will be Sept. 23. This year's Fall Classics Day will be televised in its entirety.

Friday's eight-race card attracted a total of 56 horses with the feature a $40,000 optional claiming race headed by Deputy Country.