05/02/2002 11:00PM

Purse boosts attract new faces

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba - With over 700 horses currently stabled on the Assiniboia Downs backstretch and an influx of new trainers and jockeys, an across-the-board purse increase has had the desired effect for the Manitoba Jockey Club as the 2002 season begins Sunday with an eight-race card.

This year's bottom purse of $6,000 is an increase of $1,000 since last year. Non-conditioned allowance races will carry a purse of $16,000, compared to $12,000 last year, while all stakes races that carried purses of $27,500 in 2001 now will be worth $30,000.

New trainers here year include Clayton Gray, Sonny Johnson, Bill Gray, Jean Hayden, and Clay Blinston. Clayton Gray takes over training for perennial leading owner Phil Kives and should maintain a high-percentage barn throughout the meeting.

Among the returning regulars, Ardell Sayler should have the numbers to win his third consecutive leading trainer award.

Jared Brown will maintain a 40-horse stable this year and likely will be near the top of the trainer standings, as should Gary Danelson.

Also look for Darla Singh, Emile Corbel, Lorna Gray, Chad Torevell, Patti Ross, and Wendy Anderson to be around the respectable 20-win mark by season's end.

New jockeys include Manuel Alicea, who will ride first call for Clayton Gray and should challenge for the leading rider title.

From Barbados come Juan Crawford and brothers Paul and Jason Leacock, who is the only apprentice currently here. Robert Skelly, who has previously ridden in northern California and at Hasting Park, and Tim Moccasin, from Saskatchewan, also are relocating to Assiniboia..

Of the returning riders, Rohan Singh goes for his third consecutive title. Tim Gardiner, Anderson Ward, and Jacques DesAutels all should have solid seasons.

Highlights of the 2002 meeting include the $40,000 Winnipeg Futurity and the $100,000 Manitoba Derby, both run Aug. 5; the $60,000 Matron Breeders' Cup Stakes for fillies and mares on, Sept. 22; and the $60,000 Gold Breeders' Cup Stakes for 3-year-olds and upward on closing day, Sept. 29.

Post times for the 75-day meeting are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 p.m. Sundays and holiday Mondays. There also will be racing on most Tuesdays in July and August, beginning at 7 p.m.