There could be a new set of stakes races at Fraser Downs, which could lead to challenges being mounted from outside the province. 

The Downs (Orangeville Raceway Limited) and the B.C. Standardbred Association have agreed to some alterations of the stake schedule for the 2004-2005 meet.  

A new $100,000 Spring Pacing Series will be staged early in 2005. Funded by the purse pool, the series will be open and feature several qualifying legs. The detailed conditions will be worked out in the next few weeks. 

Another change will be the opening up of conditions for the Langley and Miss Valentine stakes late in the meet. The races are for four-year-old colts and geldings and four-year-old fillies respectively. Those races had previously been for B.C. bred, sired or owned horses but those conditions will be removed.  

Strategic purse increases will also be made during the traditional standardbred season, from Oct. 18 of this year to April 11 of 2005. In the conditioned ranks, maidens will receive a $500 increase, NW2 (non winners of two races) $400 and NW3/4 $300. In the $6,000 non-winner classes, NW1 to NW3 will go up $200 and NW4/5 $100. All classes of $4,000 claimers will receive an increase of $150. The estimated cost of these increases for the course of the meet is $160,000. 

Meanwhile, qualifiers are planned for Sept. 4 and 11 with opening day at the Downs on Friday, Sept. 17. 

STARRBUCK STARTER FOR NOW: Lil Dude Starrbuck remains a potential starter for the big $200,000 Nat Christie Memorial Stake race in Calgary on Aug.29. 

The three-year-old colt, a son of Threefold out of Almahurst Irish, is considered a top contender after a star-studded meet in Edmonton where he captured the Western Canada Pacing Derby by six lengths in 1:52.4. While at Northlands, Starrbuck won six straight races and more than $125,000. 

Owned by Lil Dude Ranch and trained by Larry Micallef, Starrbuck has not raced since the June 20 WCPD. However, he recently qualified at Stampede Park. 

“Yeah, we got him qualified,” Micallef said earlier this week in a phone conversation from Calgary. But he sounded somewhat reserved as rumors persist the colt will not compete in the Christie. 

“We still have to do some changes,” Micallef admitted, “and get him used to the track.” 

Top eastern driver Luc Ouellette handled Starrbuck in the Pacing Derby and owners Sharon and Gerry Renkers are hoping that he will come to Calgary for the Christie. 

LOVING IT IN LADNER: A good time was had by all last Sunday when several regular Fraser Downs competitors staged three races at old Paterson Park racetrack in Ladner. The races were part of the Ladner Centennial celebrations. 

Downs’ director of racing Keith Quinlan guessed than somewhere between 900 and 1,000 people (500 watching from the stands that still remain at the track) took in the races which each had a field of four. Reports are that the races were highly competitive. 

Chuck Keeling, Downs’ general manager, apparently received several suggestions that Paterson could again field a few days of racing on a regular basis. 

ARSENAULT WILL BE BACK: Fraser Downs’ driver/trainer Andy Arsenault is not wild about getting around on crutches – and rightly so.

Downs’ patrons will remember that Arsenault was badly injured in a spill during a race in 2003 at Sandown Park. Among the injuries were leg and hip fractures. 

Andy was out of action for months (several of which he spent getting around with the aid of crutches). He did return to driving earlier this year. 

It’s less than a month until the start of the 2004-5 meet at the Downs and Arsenault is back on crutches.

“I just had surgery,” he explained, “for the second time in a couple of months.” 

The surgery was first done in late June to remove a pin put in immediately after the accident. Infection was a concern.

Unfortunately it was more of a concern in August when it was deemed that the entire pin was not found in the June surgery.

“I had it done in Vancouver this time and they say it looks good,” he said. 

So is he going to be back in the sulky again? If Andy were a betting man he would say yes. 

He doesn’t think he will be ready for opening day but added with a wry smile, “I think it could be the second or third week.” 

AGREEMENT NOT STALLED: Fraser Downs and the B.C. Standardbred Association have reached an agreement on the contentious issue of stall rent at the track’s backstretch barns. 

They recently arrived at a policy to cover the coming meet. Under the policy the rent for a stall occupied by a qualified race horse will be paid from the purse pool and the trainer to whom the stall is assigned will pay the rent for any stall either vacant or occupied by an unqualified horse.  

The rent for qualified horses will be paid from the purse pool at a rate of $20,000 per month. The individual rent for unqualified horses will be $90 and will be collected from trainers commencing on Oct. 1. All rent money collected will be deposited into the purse pool, thereby reducing the impact on it.

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