02/11/2010 1:00AM

Woodbine to run 103 stakes in 2010


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Woodbine's moving of the Queen's Plate to July 4 has helped give a new look to the track's 2010 stakes schedule, which comprises 103 stakes worth a total of $22.725 million.

The stakes calendar for the 167-day meeting which begins Friday, April 2, was released Thursday by the Woodbine Entertainment Group.

"The later date for the Queen's Plate allowed me more time for the preps, the feeder races," said Steve Lym, racing secretary and a director of racing for Woodbine. "In years past the Plate was in late June, and it was always a rush."

The Queen's Plate, a $1 million race for Canadian-bred 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles, was resituated in order to accommodate the possibility of a visit by Queen Elizabeth II, who along with her husband, Prince Philip, is scheduled to be in Ottawa on July 1 for Canada Day festivities.

The biggest impact on the road to the Queen's Plate will be felt on June 13 with both the 1 1/8-mile Woodbine Oaks and the 1 1/8-mile Plate Trial on the agenda.

"It was an opportunity to move the Oaks three weeks in front of the Plate," said Lym, noting that the Oaks had been run two weeks out in recent years.

"It will also give us another 'big day' and, with both races at a mile and an eighth, there will be some interesting comparisons."

Woodbine also has reworked its turf stakes schedule for older males, which begins with the 7-furlong Connaught Cup on May 30. The Connaught Cup had been a 1 1/16-mile race since 1980.

"We've always had a great turf stakes schedule here but we've tweaked it, just to see if it will flow a little better," said Lym. "The Connaught's a good race, but in recent years the numbers have been dropping just a tad."

Several major turf races which follow the Connaught Cup also have been shortened in distance, with the June 27 King Edward cut from 1 1/8 miles to one mile, the July 24 Nijinsky from 1 1/4 miles to 1 1/8 miles, and the Aug. 22 Sky Classic from 1 3/8 miles to 1 1/4 miles.

"What we were trying to accomplish was to establish a progression, and have another graded mile race on the schedule," said Lym, adding that the 1 1/2-mile Singspiel on Queen's Plate Day will provide a deviation from the pattern and will accommodate turf marathoners.

Several turf races for other divisions will be run at new distances with the June 5 Nassau for fillies and mares being shortened from 1 1/16 miles to one mile and the July 10 Ontario Damsel for Ontario-foaled 3-year-old fillies stretching from 6 1/2 furlongs to one mile.

Lym was pleased to see upgraded status for two of Woodbine's top turf sprints, with the Nearctic now a Grade 1 and the Highlander a Grade 2 following a review by the Canadian Graded Stakes committee late last month.

The $500,000 Nearctic will be run on the blockbuster Oct. 16 program which also features the Grade 1, $2 million Canadian International and the Grade 1, $1 million E.P. Taylor. The $200,000 Highlander will be part of the Queen's Plate Day festivities.

The other major day here will be Sept. 19 with the Grade 1, $1 million Woodbine Mile; the Grade 1, $750,000 Northern Dancer; and the Grade 2, $300,000 Canadian all scheduled to be run over the E.P. Taylor turf course.