06/17/2008 11:00PM

Season opens with seven races

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The 61-day summer Thoroughbred meeting at Northlands Park begins Friday evening with an abbreviated seven-race card.

The interrupted training and racing schedules during the last month of the weather-plagued Stampede Park spring meet and the usual complications of the ship from Calgary to Edmonton took its toll on the entry box.

Friday's co-features, both for optional $40,000 claimers, will go as the sixth and seventh races. Both appear to be wide-open.

In race 6 at 6 1/2 furlongs, Powerful Summer faces several rivals making their 2008 debuts as he moves up a notch off a front-running score for $30,000 on May 14. He could have an edge, since speed generally holds here the first weekend over a surface freshly laid down following the completion of the Standardbred meet last Sunday.

The one-mile seventh race came up extremely tough with several stakes winners, including the 8-year-old Beau Brass. Winner of the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare here in 2005, Beau Brass stretches out after sprinting twice in Calgary. He will have to overcome post 10 on Friday.

The Northlands stakes schedule contains 34 races, the same number as last season. Five stakes have been reduced a total of $150,000, a decision based on reduced slot revenues and the track's desire to maintain a strong overnight purse structure.

The Northlands Oaks on July 19 took a $50,000 cut from its previous $100,000 level, but 3-year-old fillies still have a shot at $100,000 in the Sonoma on Aug. 9.

Alberta Fall Classic Day, featuring seven stakes races restricted to Alberta-breds with $400,000 up for grabs, closes out the stakes schedule on Sept. 27.