Woodbine Entertainment Group released its 2006 stakes schedule, which includes two new races named for Canadian-bred Northern Dancer and sponsor Bell Canada. The 101-race stakes calendar, worth $21.85 million this year, begins April 15 with the $125,000 Jacques Cartier Stakes for older sprinters. Opening day of the 168-card Woodbine Thoroughbred season is April 1.The Queen's Plate, Canada's most famous horse race and North America's oldest continuously-run stakes event, will have its 147th running June 25. The 1 1/4-mile classic, the first jewel in Canada's Triple Crown of racing, carries a $1 million purse.An addition to the calendar this year is the $700,000 Northern Dancer Breeders' Cup Turf Stakes (Can-IIT), set for July 23, at 1 1/2-miles over the E.P. Taylor Turf Course."It's appropriate with 2006 being Woodbine's 50th anniversary that we name a race after Northern Dancer," said Chris Evans, Woodbine's vice president of Thoroughbred racing. "He really put Canada and Woodbine on the map during his racing and breeding career."The Northern Dancer, replaces the Niagara Breeders' Cup Stakes, which was worth $300,000 in 2005.Bell Canada sponsored Woodbine's Canadian Stakes (Bell Canadian Stakes) in 2005, but will be the name sponsor on the grade I Bell Woodbine Mile, set for Sept. 17.The $1 million event was sponsored the past seven years by Atto Insurance. The 2006 renewal marks the race's 10th running."Bell rounds out our sponsorship program of big races beautifully," said Glenn Crouter, vice president of media and community relations and sponsorship. "The Mile is one of our top properties and we are thrilled to have Bell aboard."The richest race, and most prominent internationally on the Woodbine stakes schedule is the Grade I Pattison Canadian International.The $2 million event, along with its companion races, the $1 million E.P. Taylor Stakes (Can-IT) for fillies and mares, and the $500,000 Nearctic Stakes, a grade II turf sprint, is set for Oct. 22.The Breeders' Stakes, third and turf gem of racing's Triple Crown, is set for Aug. 6 at Woodbine. The 1 1/2-mile turf event carries a purse of $500,000. The middle leg of the three-race series, the $500,000 Prince of Wales Stakes, will be run at Fort Erie July 16.The $500,000 Labatt Woodbine Oaks, first leg in Canada's Triple Tiara of racing, is set for June 11 and the $200,000 Scotts Highlander Stakes returns as the complement feature on Queen's Plate day.Other changes to the stakes schedule this year:*All stakes purses carry guaranteed money.*The Ontario Derby received a purse hike to $200,000 from $150,000.*The Chinese Cultural Centre Stakes is now the Nijinsky Stakes and had its distance extended from 1 3/8 miles to 1 1/2 miles.*The Chinese Cultural Centre will continue its sponsorship with the Chinese Cultural Centre Seagram Cup Stakes July 30.*After two years as a race for 3-year-old fillies, the Hill 'n' Dale is now for 3-year-old fillies and up.
*The Halton Stakes is now a mile race, a furlong less than the 1 1/8 miles in 2005. *There are no more Handicap stakes, just allowance conditioned stakes.