07/15/2008 11:00PM

Track may be kinder to closers

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EDMONTON, Alberta - Northland Park's racing secretary, Fred Hilts, has assembled a strong nine-race card for Friday evening to coincide with the opening of Edmonton's Capital Ex, formerly known as Klondike Days, and the featured eighth race for $30,000 claimers attracted a solid field of eight.

The six-furlong dash is loaded with early speed, with Summer Sensation, Smokem Ninetynine, Freud's Cure, and "B" circuit invader It's Not Over Yet expected to duel for the lead.

The track was extremely speed-biased throughout last weekend, producing a host of wire-to-wire winners, but the extended break in racing since Sunday to allow for Capital Ex to set up has allowed the track crew extra maintenance time.

The likelihood of a surface less conducive to front-end speed would improve the chances of both Catalone and Ecton's Gem, a pair of mid-pack closers with the right running style to benefit from the anticipated quick early fractions in Friday's feature.

Catalone drew the rail with Shannon Beauregard up and is a fresh horse, making his first start in two months. The time off is of some concern, but he has run well off such layoffs in the past and will be rolling late.

Ecton's Gem drops into this spot after failing against much tougher company in his previous two starts at this meet. A return to the form he displayed at the spring meet at Stampede Park would stamp him a major player.