03/30/2010 12:00AM

Ten-race opener gets 86 horses


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - The Thoroughbreds are back in the flesh, as a total of 86 entries were taken on Tuesday for Friday's 10-race opening-day program at Woodbine.

A total of 88 horses were entered for last year's opening 10-race card, which took place on a Saturday, with 86 going to the post.

"We're a little light, like I was afraid we'd be," said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. "Even though the weather's been very good, it seemed like the work tab wasn't as busy as it was last year. I think a lot more horses will be ready in a couple of weeks."

The opening-day feature, the newly created $100,000 Debut Stakes, is a five-furlong race for Ontario-sired 4-year-olds and upward. Stuck in Traffic, a multiple stakes winner of $581,600, looms the horse to beat in the 11-horse field for the Debut.

"It turned out to be quite a decent feature," said Lym.

The Debut, as an overnight stakes, is not part of Woodbine's regularly scheduled stakes program of 101 races worth a total of $22.7 million.

Slight cuts in some overnight purses

Meanwhile, base purses for open allowance and high-priced claiming events have been cut by 5 percent for the start of the meeting due to a restructuring in funding from Ontario's Thoroughbred Improvement Program, which is administered by the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society.

"The cuts are only to facilitate increases in the Ontario-bred bonus program," said Lym, explaining that the program has allocated more of its funding to the bonuses rather than actual purses, leaving Woodbine a touch short in the purse account.

The bonus for Ontario-bred horses earning top-five purse money in open races has been upped to 20 percent this year, from 15 percent last year and 10 percent when the program was inaugurated in 2008.

Lym said that base purses were scheduled be adjusted downward by 5 percent in those two years but were maintained due to a purse underpayment which no longer exists.

Woodbine paid out more than $90 million in purses last year but Lym expects that figure to be about $4 million less in 2010.

* A group of Woodbine jockeys will be at the main entrance Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to welcome back customers. The riders will be handing out scratch-and-win cards with top prizes of $1,000.