03/29/2006 1:00AM

Tantoo's a go for opening-night card


CALGARY, Alberta - It would not be opening weekend without an appearance by Tantoo, a 10-year-old mare who loves Stampede Park in the springtime.

On Friday, the Canadian Thoroughbred racing season begins at Stampede with a program of nine four-furlong dashes. The card attracted 80 horses, including Tantoo in the night's $23,500 allowance feature.

The 47-day Stampede Park meeting, which runs through June 18, offers 14 stakes worth a total of $700,000. The headliner, as always, is the $125,000 Alberta Derby on June 17.

Tantoo, a daughter of Well Decorated, has 12 victories at Stampede, all of them sprinting early in the year. On four occasions, she began her season with a victory in a four-furlong dash.

Remarkably, Tantoo has remained competitive at a high level despite her advanced age. She has won for several trainers over the course of a career that has produced 23 wins and earnings of $301,542.

Tantoo runs for Bar None Ranches on opening night. She was claimed for $22,000 by trainer Kelly Grieves in September.

Claiming Tantoo served two purposes. It gave Grieves a big shot to win a couple of races early with Tantoo, and Bar None Ranches, one of the largest breeders in western Canada, will retire the Alberta-bred mare to the broodmare ranks this year.

A rugged competitor in upper-level claiming and allowance ranks throughout her career, Tantoo gained black type last April when she finished second in the older fillies-and-mares division of the Sales Stakes here at her favorite course.

Tantoo drew post 5 in Friday's field of six older fillies and mares and comes in off a series of strong works, including two at five furlongs. Tantoo will be favored despite the presence of the entry of Banjo Babe and Certainly Regal.