05/04/2011 12:14PM

Northlands: Ultra-short sprints predominant as 2011 season opens


Decent field size but short races figure to be the norm for the first two week s of the 2011 live racing season that begins Friday at Northlands Park.

The eight races carded for opening day are all set at 3 1/2 furlongs and that will likely be the case for the first couple of days of the 84-day meet that runs until Oct. 10.

“The horse population looks good,” said racing secretary Jason Teague. “We have fit horses shipping up from the south so hopefully we can put together a few six-furlong races next weekend.”

Teague said the purse schedule will remain the same as 2010 – roughly $85,000 a day- and the stakes schedule mirrors last years.

The gem of the $2.1 million stakes schedule is the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby on Aug. 20. Helping spice up the 1 3/8-mile Canadian Derby card are the $75,000 Speed to Spare for 3-year-olds and up; the $75,000 Sonoma Edmonton Distaff for fillies and mares, and the $50,000 Sonoma for 3-year-old fillies. The Alberta Fall Classic is scheduled for Sept. 17. Fall Classic Day features seven stakes races for Alberta-breds.

Friday nights will have a 7 p.m. Mountain post time. Saturday, Sunday, and holiday cards will begin at 1 p.m. The first post on Wednesdays will be 6 p.m.

Trainer Robertino Diodoro has a strong contingent of horses in his barn and will be hard to displace as leading trainer.

Anthony Salgado is back to defend his riding title. Fernando Perez helps strengthen the local jockey colony. He was the leading rider at Hastings in 2009 and was on his way to his second straight title at Hastings last year when he was forced to miss the final part of the season due to a blood clot.

Jockey Quincy Welch will be missed. Welch, who has been one of the top riders in the province since he began riding in Alberta in 1997, has decided to try his luck at Woodbine.

◗ Smarty Jill looks like the one to beat in a first-level allowance race for 3-year-old fillies that will serves as the opening-day feature. Trained by Greg Tracy, Smarty Jill scored an easy 3 1/4-length win when she debuted in a 3 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race last June. She followed up her sharp debut with a second behind Embellished in the $50,000 Princess Margaret.