03/27/2007 11:00PM

Ninety entered for 2007 meet opener


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - A total of 90 horses answered the bell on Wednesday when entries were taken for Saturday's opening 10-race card of the 2007 Woodbine meeting.

"I was a little apprehensive because of the winter and spring we've had," said Steve Lym, Woodbine's racing secretary. "But for opening day I'm very pleased."

This will be the first meet to conduct all main-track races over the one-mile Polytrack surface, which opened last Aug. 30, replacing the dirt oval.

Last year, main-track racing was held on the one-mile dirt track at the start of the meet and moved to the renovated seven-furlong Standardbred oval on July 3 while the Polytrack was installed.

This year's long meet is scheduled for 167 days, through Dec. 9. Woodbine will race Saturday and Sunday, and then Fridays will be added to the schedule next week, Wednesdays beginning in May, and Thursdays in June.

Post time will be 1:10 p.m. Eastern on all days except Wednesdays, which have a 6:45 p.m. first post.

The opening-day feature, a $79,900 allowance race at 5 1/2 furlongs for 3-year-olds and up, attracted eight entrants. The race is a prep for the Jacques Cartier on April 14. "It's a good race," said Lym. "I didn't expect the field to be that big."

The $125,000 Jacques Cartier, a six-furlong race for 3-year-olds and up, is the first stakes race of the meeting.

The meet's 102 scheduled stakes offer total purse money of $22.1 million.

The top races are the $1 million Queen's Plate, a 1 1/4-mile race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds on June 24; the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile, a turf race for 3-year-olds and up on Sept. 16; the Grade 1 Canadian International, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and up on Oct. 21; and the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes, a 1 1/4-mile turf race for fillies and mares, 3-year-olds and up, also on Oct. 21.

Of the 2,170 available stalls here, 1,854 were occupied as of Wednesday morning, according to Martin Velden, manager of backstretch operations.

o Woodbine senior management and representatives of Polytrack suppliers Martin Collins International and Keeneland met Wednesday to discuss renovations to the surface.

The wax and fiber in the Polytrack surface have shown a tendency to separate in colder weather, leading to fairly severe kickback.