02/22/2012 12:25PM

Woodbine adds additional stakes to biggest days on 102-race schedule

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario – Woodbine’s three biggest days will be bigger than ever this year with stakes being added to the Queen’s Plate, Woodbine Mile, and Canadian International programs.

The changes were made public with Wednesday’s release of the stakes schedule for the 2012 meeting, which consists of 102 guaranteed stakes worth a total of $23 million.

The June 24 Queen’s Plate Day card now will feature five stakes with the Grade 2, $250,000 King Edward, a one-mile turf race for 3-year-olds and upward, and the $150,000 My Dear, a five-furlong race for 2-year-old fillies, being added to the festivities.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Highlander, a six-furlong turf race for 3-year-old and upward, and the Grade 3, $150,000 Singspiel, a 1 1/2-mile turf race for the same age group, retain their positions as supporting features to the $1  million Queen’s Plate.

“The Queen’s Plate is coming off three very successful years, business-wise and attendance-wise” said Steve Lym, director of Thoroughbred racing for the Woodbine Entertainment Group. “We’re hoping to build on that.”

The Sept. 16 Woodbine Mile card will add the Ontario Derby as a fourth guaranteed stakes and the Oct. 14 Canadian International Day program will have a fourth stakes in the Durham Cup.

The Grade 1 Woodbine Mile, a $1 million grass race for 3-year-olds and upward, will retain its traditional supporting turf features, the Grade  1, Northern Dancer at 1 1/2 miles for 3-year-olds and upward and the Grade 2 Canadian for fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.

The Ontario Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds, offers a purse of $150,000 and regained Grade 3 status this year.

“It’s been getting better and better every year,” said Lym. “Hopefully, it could become an important prep for 3-year-olds who want to go to the Breeders’ Cup.

The richest card of the meeting, headlined by the $1.5 million Canadian International on Oct. 24, will continue to include the $1 million E.P. Taylor and the $500,000 Nearctic.

The 1 1/2-mile Canadian International, 1 1/4-mile E.P. Taylor and six-furlong Nearctic are all Grade 1 turf races for 3-year-olds and upward with the Taylor being restricted to fillies and mares.

The Durham Cup is a Grade 3, $150,000 race for 3-year-olds and upward at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

“It should boost the day up a little bit,” said Lym.

The only other significant change in stakes race placement involves the Selene and La Lorgnette, both 1  1/16 mile races for 3-year-old fillies, which have reverted to their original May and September dates.

The Grade 3 Selene, which had been run in the spring, had traded places with the La Lorgnette three years ago.

“It’s been one of the last big races for 3-year-old fillies but it was running into too much competition,” said Lym.

“We want to attract more ship-ins and it had also been a pivotal prep for the Woodbine Oaks.”

Several revisions in the Canadian graded stakes program also are reflected on the Woodbine stakes schedule with the Summer, Natalma, and Hendrie having been promoted to the Grade 2 level and the Bold Venture, Ontario Fashion, and Mazarine joining the Ontario Derby as new Grade 3 stakes for this meeting.

The Natalma also has had its pot increased from $200,000 to $250,000 in the only purse change on the schedule.