07/05/2006 11:00PM

Temporary track to get first test

Michael Burns
A five-inch deep cushion is being placed on top of Woodbine's Standardbred oval in time for Saturday's card.

ETOBICOKE, Ontario - It still looks like all systems go for Woodbine's converted Standardbred track, which begins its temporary duties as a Thoroughbred surface on Saturday.

The cushion of the former dirt track here is being moved to the seven-furlong Standardbred track, which will be used while Polytrack is installed in place of the former dirt surface. That process is scheduled to be completed by the end of August.

"We've moved the cushion over and are compacting it down in layers," said Tom Cosgrove, director of racing, adding that the cushion will measure about five inches in depth.

Meanwhile, the move to the inner track has led to a couple of changes in the racing program.

Woodbine has dropped seven scheduled Thursday dates, between July 13 and Aug. 31, in the hopes of expediting the Polytrack installation.

A limited range of distances will be available on the converted racetrack. All dirt races will be conducted at five furlongs, 7 1/2 furlongs, one mile, or 1 1/16 miles. Turf racing will not be affected.

The distances for seven dirt stakes have been amended, beginning with Saturday's Clarendon.

The Clarendon had to be shortened to five furlongs because its original distance of 5 1/2 furlongs would have forced the race to start on a turn. The same distance change will apply to next Sunday's Shady Well.

Four six-furlong stakes - the July 22 Colin, the Aug. 5 Nandi, the Aug. 13 Vandal, and the Aug. 19 Ontario Debutante - also will be run at five furlongs.

The July 22 Bold Venture and the Aug. 6 Shepperton, originally slated for 6 1/2 furlongs, and the July 19 Deputy Minister and the Aug. 12 Duchess, scheduled for seven furlongs, all will be run at 7 1/2 furlongs.

All races for 2-year-olds will be limited to 10 entrants, with others capped at 12.

The eight dirt races on Saturday's card drew 84 entrants, including 11 also-eligibles, easing fears that horsemen would be initially reluctant to race on the Standardbred oval. Sunday's 10-race card includes seven dirt races with a total of 73 entrants, including eight also-eligibles.