Now is the winter of our discontent
Made wretched spring
By the dearth of sun on
This glorious house of Hastings.
But what the heck, the thoroughbreds are back, we are up and running and opening day featured some outstanding racing while serving notice that competition this year at Hastings is going to be ratcheted up a notch from that of recent seasons.
There were some outstanding events on the 8-race card that offered 5 high-quality races: two stakes, two allowances, and a Maiden Special Weight. There were some outstanding performances. Distinctiv Passion gave a little seminar on what California graded stakes sprint speed looks like, Dear Lilly demonstrated what honesty in a racehorse looks like and the season’s first race saw the Alberta stakes winner Fall at Last very rapidly lay waste to an allowance field of three-year-olds.
Jockey David Lopez won 3 races on the card. Enrique Gonzalez took two, including the Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural, and the team of jockey Quincy Welch, trainer Greg Tracy and owners Don Danard and Curtis Landry won both allowance races on the program. Trainers Rob Maybin (along with his co-owner Sheena Maybin) and Sandi Gann each had a double. Gann’s two came for North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc., one of them being the Brighouse Belles.
The crowd was better than one might have thought given the continual grey and rain and they were ready for racing and up for speculation. The handle, all sources, was a shade north of 800K.
The Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural Stakes
Distinctiv Passion ($4.00) broke on top and did not stop in defeating one of the strongest sprint fields to convene at Hastings in recent years. The winner had previously won two Grade 3 stakes sprinting in Southern California, the land of warm breezes and hot paces, and set the pace in Grade 1’s while looking at the likes of Breeders Cup Winners Goldencents and Secret Circle or Grade 1 winner Wild Dude. They were not here today, but an excellent field that comprised 9 stakes winners was, including Modern who won the race last year and tried to win it this year but could make no real impression on the winner and settled for third while never giving up. Venetian Mask put in a relentless run to be second a length behind the winner at 31-1.
Distinctiv Passion got to the lead with shocking ease considering that Modern had been in front after the first quarter in each of his last 8 sprint starts. Modern tracked Distinctiv Passion for most of the race but was unable to mount any real attack while the winner laid down scorching fractions that saw a 21.75 first quarter, a 44.60 half and through quarters in 1:09.33 en route 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.38.
Jockey Enrique Gonzalez rode the Florida bred son of With Distinction with confidence for owner Peter Redekop B.C. Limited and trainer Philip Hall. The current connections came into possession of Distinctiv Passion one race back after dropping a claim slip for $62,500 at Santa Anita on March 30 of this year. He has now won 11 of 26 races and well over half a million sprinting.
The Brighouse Belles
Dear Lilly ($4.90) laid it on the line as usual and at age 7 the remarkably consistent mare got her well-deserved stakes win with a hard-fought victory over runner-up Chianti after 6 ½ contested furlongs that went in 1:17.39. Castellani ran an even race to check in third after being uncomfortably placed early in the proceedings.
Dear Lilly was on the top of her game after a winter campaign that saw her win 3 of 4 at Turf Paradise. She further assisted herself by not rattling around in the starting gate as she has in the past. She needed everything she had to wear down an ultra-game Chianti who had gotten past pace-setter C U At Eau Claire late in the backstretch only to be confronted by Dear Lilly. The two of them were head-and-head well into the stretch before Dear Lilly began to edge away to what would be a length lead at the wire. Chianti acquitted herself while losing without being defeated and there was nothing wrong with Castellani’s effort, it was just Dear Lilly’s day.
The winner is a Florida-bred mare by Graeme Hall. She is owned by Mark DeDomenico LLC and North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc. and trained by Sandi Gann. It was Dear Lilly’s 13th win in 24 starts.
Fall At Last ($2.80) absolutely smoked 6 furlongs in 1:10.36 on his way to a 7 ½ length win in the opener. It was the first of two allowance wins for the combo of Tracy, Welch, Danard and Landry. The other came in the 6th when the odds-on Ruffenuff ($2.70) survived a race-long war with the 24-1 longshot Morning Blurs to prevail by a neck over the Nancy Betts trainee. No quarter was given in this battle and none was asked for.
The 5th was a Maiden Special Weight won by Santa Fe Trail ($12.50) who was the second longest price on a day that produced 6 winning favorites among the 8 races. Santa Fe Trail was bred by his owners the Forster Stable and trained by David Forster who has specialized over the years in winning races and giving horses Southwestern themed names. Santa Fe Trail is out of his mare Tucumcari and by the late Skimming.
The other three races on the card were 4K claimers, although one of those was taken by the stakes-winning Cederberg ($5.10) for owner North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc. and trainer Sandi Gann. It was the first of two wins for them and the first of three for jockey David Lopez.
Trainer Rob Maybin, who took up right where he left off last year, and his co-owner Sheena Maybin won with Queen of Barn I ($3.40) when she dead-heated for the win in the second and again to close out the card in the eighth with Seeking Asylum ($18.00) who was the longest price of the day. Enrique Gonzalez kicked off his riding double with Queen of Barn I and David Lopez finished off his triple with Seeking Asylum.
The other horse in the dead-heated second race was Bullet ($3.40) who is owned by Gary Johnson, trained by Frank Barroby and was ridden to the win by Corrine Andros who returned to Hastings with a win in her first start back.
After day one David Lopez leads the jockeys with three wins. Trainers Sandi Gann, Greg Tracy and Rob Maybin all have two victories. Owners North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc., Don Danard and Curtis Landry and Rob and Sheena Maybin have two wins per entity.