03/18/2008 11:00PM

Track gets one more year

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CALGARY, Alberta - The doors of Stampede Park, thought to be permanently shuttered for Thoroughbred racing at the conclusion of the spring meet last June, will swing open for another campaign Friday evening, the 118th year of racing on the grounds.

A new facility in nearby Balzac had been scheduled to replace Stampede Park as a Thoroughbred venue, but when that project fell behind schedule, Stampede was enlisted to host a 2008 spring meeting in a one-year contract negotiated last July.

The 50-day stand begins with a program of eight "half-milers" on Friday, with first post at 6 p.m. Four-furlong races will be the order of the day for the first two weekends of action.

Racing will be conducted on the usual four-day-per-week schedule, with 6 p.m. posts on Wednesday and Friday and 1 p.m. posts on weekends and the Victoria Day Monday holiday card. Next Wednesday is dark.

The stakes program remains unchanged from previous meets. There are 12 $50,000 stakes, including the two Sales Stakes that start the schedule on April 12. Closing weekend will feature the $125,000 Alberta Derby and the $75,000 Penny Ridge.

Although the stakes purses remain untouched, with the $50,000 level ensuring the races are eligible for black type, the overnight purses for the meet have been cut by 8 percent.

The terms of Stampede Park's one-year contract and declining slot revenues are cited as the primary reasons for the purse cut.

The 1,100 available stalls in the barn area are full, and favorable weather has resulted in lengthy work tabs.

Friday's seventh and featured race is a $32,000 optional claimer for 3-year-olds. West Coast invader Call Me Tomorrow is the horse to beat, and Vancouver-based trainer Malcolm Beveridge has enlisted jockey Rickey Walcott, who captured his first Alberta title in 2007.