The best of Alberta's thoroughbreds get their day in the sun one week from tomorrow - Fall Classic Day, when the combined purses in seven races will exceed $400,000.
The desks of thoroughbred racing secretary Fred Hilts and assistant Jason Teague were piled higher than usual on Wednesday as nominations for the annual highlight of the final weekend of the 61-day Northlands Park thoroughbred season.
In all, 80 entries were presented, including a high of 14 for the $50,000 Red Diamond Express, a 6 1/2-furlong sprint for fillies. Sparhawk, last year's winner for trainer Floyd Arthur, is on the list.
As usual, interest was high for the two most-lucrative events: the Fall Classic Distaff and the Alberta Breeders' Handicap, each worth $75,000.
The absence of Teagues Fight, a tough competitor who won three $50,000 contests earlier in the year including the Spangled Jimmy, leaves plenty of options in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Handicap.
Oldest in the field will be nine-year-old Candid Remark, last year's winner.
After a slow start in 2007, he won two allowance races in his last four starts. The victories helped boost him past $300,000 in career earnings.
Beau Brass, owned by Tom White and trained by Rick Hedge, could make things tough. A relative youngster of seven, Beau Brass would push career earnings beyond $500,000 with a win.
BREAK FOR SHE'S ITALIAN
In the Fall Classic Distaff, four-year-old She's Italian appears to be getting a break. The winner of last year's Alberta Oaks on Fall Classic Day, she gets to run without Monashee, the B.C.-based speedster who outran her in both the Mademoiselle Stakes and the City of Edmonton Handicap.
Banjo Babe, winner of the Premiers' Futurity last year, will also be in the field.
Several of the entries for this year's big day are coming back from long layoffs, some up to seven weeks, which indicates they'll be fresh and sharp for their final appearances at Northlands this summer.