A SIX furlong maiden for three-year-olds, which has attracted 21 entries, heralds the opening of Salisbury’s 2014 flat season on Sunday.

Stalls flash open at 1.40pm on the seven race card, highlighted by the televised 14-furlong City Bowl handicap whose elevated status from a humdrum mid-season race is reflected in the £20,000 added prize money.

It underlines the track’s progress which this year carries a record near £1m on offer and for the first time in about 30 years, when it staged the now defunct trials for the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas trials, puts on two group races.

In addition to the Sovereign Stakes, which dominates the mid-August fixture with £75,000 added money, the Dick Poole Stakes has been lifted from listed to group three level.

Course supremo Jeremy Martin said: “This year every race will have a minimum value of £4,000, even though we will have group six races where money can go as low as £3,000.”

Salisbury, who have spent about £400,000 in the winter on upgrading facilities in the Bibury Suite, have been rewarded with an extra meeting, bringing its total to 16.

There is a British Horseracing Authority lease meting on Friday, September 11 which will be a twilight card with a 4.30pm start.

A week earlier, the course will be staging a seven furlong maiden for two-year-olds over seven furlongs race in memory of the late Virginia Walwyn, the wife of former champion trainer Peter Walwyn.

Martin will also be thankful racing no longer opens so early in the season when the April meeting used to play havoc with the ground.

Persistent rain will leave the watering system redundant for the forseeable future.

“We have had well over three inches of rain since Easter and though the forecast for later in the week is for drier weather, the ground will be soft or heavy on Sunday.”