02/26/2008 12:00AM

Open stakes bumped up to $50,000 for 70-day meet

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A total of 31 stakes races worth almost $1.3 million have been scheduled for the 2008 meeting at Assiniboia Downs in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

The schedule includes 14 open stakes, which have had their purses increased by $5,000 to $50,000 in order to meet new minimum black-type requirements.

"We just moved around some money in the stakes program," said Ray Miller, Assiniboia's racing secretary, noting that several stakes have had their purses cut to fund the upgrades.

The $100,000 Manitoba Lotteries Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, is the richest race on the calendar. It again will anchor a holiday Monday program on Aug. 4 that includes three supporting stakes.

The $30,000 Harry Jeffrey, a one-mile race for 3-year-olds, has been moved from late August to June 21.

"When we were running it after the derby, we weren't getting much action on it," Miller said.

"Before, we had nothing for 3-year-olds between the Golden Boy and the Derby Trial. Now, our 3-year-old program starts May 31 with the Golden Boy at six furlongs and comes back three weeks later with a mile."

The $50,000 Derby Trial, a 1 1/16-mile race, is scheduled for July 13.

New to the schedule is the $30,000 Hazel Wright Stakes, a six-furlong race for Manitoba-bred 3-year-old fillies that will be run June 22. The Manitoba Maturity, a race for 4-year-old Manitoba-breds, has been discontinued.

Assiniboia Downs, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, will host a 70-day meeting that begins May 21 and concludes Sept. 21.

Horses have been checking in since mid-February, and the track is scheduled to open for training Saturday.