By Nigel Reid

Five Star Derby win caps a big-race treble for Todd


Strolling across the paddock prior to the final race of a magnificent BC Derby Day at Hastings, trainer Glen Todd was asked if Saturday was the best day he’d had on a racetrack? With a smile, and typical understatement, Todd replied: “It’s up there.”


If, by “up there”, Todd means walking on clouds, then he’s probably accurate in his assessment – something of a theme in a remarkable afternoon that saw his distinctive North American Thoroughbred Horse Company checkerboard silks carried to memorable wins in three of the four Stakes races – including the BC Derby with Five Star General.

Todd, with his daughter Shelley, identified and then purchased Five Star General at Fasig-Tipton earlier this year with the BC Derby in mind. Seldom can a plan have worked out more beautifully.


Following up on last month’s convincing Sir Winston Churchill Derby Trial victory, the son of Distorted Humor, ridden boldly by returning favoured “son” Mario Gutierrez, got the best of an epic stretch duel with recent Canadian Derby hero, Explode.


For Gutierrez, the victory was extra sweet as the Derby was one of the few major races missing from his Hastings’ resume.

Gutierrez said: “I don’t forget where I came from and the people who helped me and I was very pleased to be able to win my first BC Derby for Mr Todd.”

Mario was no idle passenger and, for a moment early in the nine-furlong Gr3 contest, he needed all of his natural born talent to restrain Five Star General’s enthusiasm. The colt’s keenness at the head of affairs threatened to derail the carefully laid plans when he fought for his head running towards the Clubhouse turn.

“It took me some time to get him, but once I did he was fine,” Gutierrez confirmed afterwards.

Five Star General, who prowled the paddock with the fluidity and calmness of a big cat prior to Hastings’ richest race of the year, needed all of his obvious ability to best Explode on the final nod of the race, displaying huge tenacity and an inner refusal to be headed. The official distance was a nose. It looked narrower than that.

Explode lost nothing in defeat and connections of last month’s Gr3 Canadian Derby hero can be very proud of their boy’s efforts. Ridden by Amadeo Perez, Explode matched the eventual winner stride-for-stride-for-stride, as they gradually pulled away from those chasing the big prize behind them.

Explode even seemed to take a slight fly jump close to the wire in his desire to get ahead, but went down by the narrowest of margins with all guns blazing. It seems almost unfair to nominate a winner when the finish is that close, but few will begrudge victory to a man that does so much for horseracing in British Columbia and beyond.

Todd’s extraordinary afternoon of shiny trophy collecting began in the race previous to the $250,000 BC Derby (the purse boosted by a typical display of philanthropy from BC Hall of Famer Peter Redekop), when his two top class runners took on seven of the best sophomore fillies in the region in the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks.

A slow, and reportedly deep, surface had seen horses either manage to get out ahead and stay there or come from behind and Todd, who was wary of his duo getting bogged down mid pack, devised a plan to let one of his runners go to the front and one to be held up at the rear.

“I left it to the riders to decide who would do what,” Todd explained afterwards. “Mario volunteered to go to the front while Richard (Hamel) agreed to hold Amazonian up.”


Gutierrez put up a brave effort aboard Northern Graystar but, ultimately, he did little more than set the race up perfectly for Hamel and Amazonian.

Hamel retained the splendid-looking daughter of Malibu Moon towards the rear of the field for much of the journey, before he sent her in hot pursuit approaching the far turn. Coming five-wide around the home turn, he gave the late spurting Sunburst first run on him and still got there with something in hand, drawing away to win the valuable Gr3 contest by two-and-a-half lengths from Sunburst, with more than six lengths back to the third, Whoop It Up.


Not content with a Derby/Oaks double, Todd legged-up Richard Hamel aboard favourite He’s The Reason to land the $50,000 S W Randall Plate, a race in which connections barely experienced an anxious moment after Hamel was, inexplicably, given a soft lead aboard the four-year-old The Factor gelding.

Naturally, Hamel required no second invitation to make the most of the generosity displayed by his weighing room colleagues, dancing off in the lead and feeding out just enough rein to stay at the head of affairs. At the wire, the pair held a near three-length margin although, in reality, the race ended as a contest the second Hamel’s rivals decided to hang about at the back of the class. The lesson they received from Hamel will hopefully stick with them for some time to come.

The first Stakes contest of a splendid ten-race afternoon provided another storybook moment for the connections of the marvelous, if idiosyncratic, Bear.


Bought for just $3,000 by trainer Phil Hall and fellow owners Mort Hall and Praven Sorensen at the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale back in the spring, the daughter of Super Saver has continued to thrive on her racing throughout the season.

Bear progressed through the claiming ranks this season to eventually take the runner-up spot behind Here’s Hannah in last month’s Derby Bar & Grill BC Cup Distaff. She went one better on Saturday under Sahin Civaci, lowering the colours of the phenomenon that is Here’s Hannah in the final few strides and adding another fascinating chapter to what has been one of the Hastings’ season’s best storylines.

Described by her trainer as “quirky”, Bear was accompanied in the paddock by Hall’s daughter Sarah aboard a pony, and the effort to keep Bear calm certainly worked – although afterwards, Hall was quick to give all the credit for the win to his daughter and the rest of the team, while also acknowledging the weight-carrying effort of Here’s Hannah.

“Sarah and the team deserve all the credit for Bear,” he said. “I think the weight maybe did for Hannah but we got there in the end.”

Every Broadway show needs a superb supporting cast and the races outside of the quartet of Stakes events provided some of the most thrilling action we’ve been treated to all season.


The two-year-old maiden contest, run over six-and-a-half furlongs, provided racegoers with an early afternoon thrill. A four-way photo was eventually deciphered clearly enough to award the race to the Rob Maybin-trained Causin’ Havoc, another graduate of the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale, where Maybin shrewdly snaffled up the daughter of Creative Cause for what is now looking like a bargain price of $7,000.

Two noses and a neck covered the first four home, although two of the three behind the Romario Saunders-ridden Causin’ Havoc had the benefit of a previous run and, as such, this was an impressive debut by the attractive grey filly who is owned by the popular trainer with his wife, Sheena.


Even by his own high standards, Richard Hamel’s afternoon was a memorable one and he began the day in winning form by taking a $25,000 claiming contest aboard Don’t Hold Me Back for trainer Steve Henson and owners, J & G Racing Stables. The seven-year-old son of Hold Me Back finished a creditable fifth in last month’s BC Cup Classic and he has now won or hit the board four times from his seven starts this season.


While the garlands belonged to Todd and Gutierrez, rider Sahin Civaci, who now plies his trade at Woodbine, certainly made his weekend mini-break pay for itself. His eye-catching treble came courtesy of Bear and was supported admirably by the Pat Jarvis-trained Genoa Bay (for owner James Eccott) and then, later in the afternoon, Dawns Morning for trainer Joan Jablonowski and fellow owners, East van Racing Stables and Lindsey Edge.


Leading rider Enrique Gonzalez aboard Ezekiel, yet another graduate of the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale, landed the fourth race for trainer Anita Bolton and owners Jack Van Dyke and Bud Malette, while the nightcap (a $6,250 claimer) went to rider Julio Roque aboard Veloso Raptor for owner Tamara Baker and trainer Milton Palma.

One of the most competitive and enthralling days of racing at Hastings this season resulted in an on-track handle in excess of $250,000 (up on last year), while the off-track figure of just more than $906,000 was a little down on the 2018 figure.



By Nigel Reid

Reyes, Gutierrez sharpen appetites ahead of Derby Day feast


With so much top-class racing to come on BC Derby Day the final Friday evening meeting of the year was a more blue-collar affair, but it was no less pulsating for all that.


The opener, a $4,000 maiden claiming contest over eight-and-a-half furlongs, went the way of the Bruce Unwin-trained Dixie’s Wild Card and rider Jose Gomez, the pair sweeping past long-time leader Sweet Princeomine at the top of the stretch to win by four lengths after an unhurried start.

Dixie’s Wild Card, a son of Texas Wildcatter owned by Bruce Conley, was breaking his maiden at the 12th time of asking and these sound lower level claimers, who provide the solid foundation to every Hastings race-day handle, deserve their day in the winner’s circle.


Shez Wicked Fast took the second, a $4,000 “never won two” for fillies and mares over eight-and-a-half furlongs, winning for the first time at just the second attempt for new connections, trainer Phil Hall, owners Brian Albertson, Dan Lee, Mort and Phil Hall and rider Enrique Gonzalez. The winner was then promptly claimed back by the Alberta-bred filly’s previous trainer, Andrea Cruickshank.

The third race, another $4,000 claimer – this one a “never won three” for fillies and mares over six-and-a-half furlongs – was a heartbreaker for Hastings’ favourite son Mario Gutierrez; who was back in Vancouver for BC Derby weekend.


Riding perennial frontrunner Mis Viola with more restraint than she has previously been afforded, Mario looked to have found the key to the Glen Todd-trained daughter of Violence, easily travelling to the head of affairs as the field turned for home, only to run out of gas again close to the wire as Caymus Reserve scooted up the rail under a late drive by Antonio Reyes.


Trained by Terry Clyde for Mike Anderson, Caymus Reserve, a four-year-old daughter of Tapizar, has been running consistently well all season and was due a win after finishing third behind the speedy Yellow Bonnet in mid-August.

Gutierrez claimed immediate compensation in the fourth race, an altogether different proposition with seven maiden geldings and a single maiden filly running for $25,000 tags and chasing a $16,000 purse.


Riding Fort Langley for Glen Todd and his North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, the Kentucky Derby-winning rider put on a clinic aboard the three-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding, lobbing along upsides fellow leader Nice Brown Girl for most of the six-and-a-half furlong trip and then moving into a decisive lead inside the final furlong.

Mario will be hoping that Fort Langley is only the first of a hatful of winners he achieves during this Derby weekend.


Jockey Romario Saunders chose well in the fifth race, deciding to remain with the Nancy Betts-trained Arranger after the pair had convincingly won a $4,000 claimer on their last appearance. Friday night’s contest represented a step up in class for Richard Hunter’s Stephanotis gelding and, while it wasn’t as easy, the victory was convincing. Claimed earlier in the season from Mark Cloutier and Canmor Farms, the sophomore was landing his third victory of the season.


Having a choice between runners, as Saunders did in the previous race, is a thankless task for riders who often make the wrong decision. Leading rider Antonio Reyes has picked the wrong one a few times this season and jokes that he now leaves it to his agent to decide. Given the choice between the Pat Jarvis-trained pair, Snappy Ginger and Dorys Darlin, his agent picked the right horse and provided the title-chasing jockey with another precious winner.

Finding a nice seam between Snappy Ginger and the long time leader Krissy going into the far bend, he cajoled the sometimes headstrong Dorys Darlin to inch closer and closer to Krissy as they pulled away from the rest of the field down the homestretch. The Storm Victory filly responded and the pair just managed to find enough to take the $16,000 claimer in the final strides for owners Blue Willow Dairy and Pat Jarvis.


For Reyes, it was a second winner of the evening, and enough to move him back into second place in the title race – two behind leader Enrique Gonzalez and one ahead of Richard Hamel.


However, Gonzalez then answered immediately by taking the nightcap aboard Attitude Included for trainer and co-owner Milton Palma and owner, Tamara Baker.

Jumping into an immediate lead from the number eight gate, Gonzalez soon had the three-year-old Atticus gelding in charge of the eight-and-a-half furlong $4,000 “never won two” contest, making every yard of the running.

Friday evening’s “amuse-bouche” to Saturday’s sumptuous feast generated a healthy on-track handle of more than $78,600, while the gross handle exceeded $430,000. Both figures will be a lot bigger on Saturday, with ten races headed by four Stakes contests, including the BC Oaks and the $250,000 BC Derby. Racing begins at 12:50pm.

Hastings Racing Wrap-up for Friday, August 30th by the Man with No Name


In the absence of scribe extraordinaire, the witty and loquacious Nigel Reid, who is off to buy yearlings in Ontario, the Man with No Name again takes the reigns. His writing follows.

The Pie Wasn’t Divided Equally

The wet morning turned into a wonderful mix of sun and cloudy skies by the afternoon, reminding us that summer is still lingering on. It was an evening of doubles, triples and even a quadruple.  Front running odds on favourites dominated for the most part, with a couple of longshots thrown in for good measure.  The track surface, expertly manicured by the hard working Hastings Track Crew, played fair for all, with times a tick or two slower than the average for the year.  B.C. Breds won both ends of the CTHS Sales Stakes and took home $30,500 and $29,500 pay cheques for their fortunate owners.  Future prospects are on the offer at the 2019 CTHS Yearling and Mixed Sale to be held on Sept 10, 2019 at the Thunderbird Show Park in Langley. Be there and take home a Champion.


  • Trainer Phil Hall takes four.
  • Jockey Amadeo Perez gets a Hat Trick.
  • Owner George Gilbert scores two.
  • Jockey Antonio Reyes wins a stake and doubles.
  • Jockey Enrique Gonzalez claims a stake and another.
  • Trainer Patty Leaney celebrates two.
  • The Hastings Racing Club 2 takes over the Winner’s Circle.
  • The evening’s handle of $681,700 is up, over 40% higher than last year’s same day total.



Infinite Patience Gets Rewarded


The two-year-old fillies division of the CTHS Sales Stake went to William DeCoursey and R.N.H. Stable’s outstanding undefeated bay filly, Infinite Patience (2.10, 2.10, 2.10). Confidently piloted by regular rider Antonio Reyes, Infinite Patience was sent right to the lead, completing the first quarter in a sensible 23.05 and thereafter never looking back, stopping the clock in a speedy 1:18.05.  Fully Lent chased from 4 ¾ lengths back at the wire to be second with Queen’s Park running a distant third.  Infinite Patience is now three for three, and two for two for stakes wins, having previously won the BC Cup Debutante.  There is no doubt Infinite Patience will be the one to beat in the upcoming Sadie Diamond Futurity.  Good luck getting by her.  Infinite Patience, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Barb Heads, is by Sungold out of Montero and was bred in Fabulous British Columbia by her co-owner William DeCoursey.

The Train Arrives on Time


The second race on the card, a maiden allowance contest for two-year-olds going the 3 ½ furlong nursery course was won by the B.C. bred rapid bay gelding, The Kippy Train. Enrique Gonzalez hustled his charge right to the lead out of the gate and was thereafter never challenged, winning easily by a 4 ¼ length margin in a decent final time of 40.17 on a track which was not playing fast.  The Kippy Train (3.60, 2.80, 2.20), owned by J.A.K. Stable, conditioned by leading trainer Phil Hall, is by Lent out of Meet the Queen and was bred in beautiful British Columbia by James Barry Doud.

High Flying Longshot


The two-year-old boys’ division of the CTHS Sales Stake next on the card was taken down by the front running dark bay gelding Above the Moon (29.70, 4.90, 2.60). Using the same tactics that got the job done on The Kippy Train, Enrique Gonzalez ensured that Above the Moon was never headed, winning in wire to wire fashion by an increasing 2 ½ lengths.  Capilano Canyon, the overwhelming betting favourite (0.30), was easily second best, but was no match for the winner tonight.  Third place finish went to BC Cup Nursery Champion At Attention.  Owned by Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd., Above the Moon is by Harbor the Gold out of Mille Luna and was bred in Supernatural British Columbia by his owner and was conditioned by leading trainer Phil Hall, assisted by his daughter Sara.

Some Enchanted Evening


That it was, as George Gilbert’s two-year-old chestnut filly Enchanted Lady drew 2 ½ lengths clear at the wire to score in the fourth, a maiden allowance contested at 6 furlongs. The favoured Enchanted Lady (4.80, 3.40, 2.70), ridden to victory by Amadeo Perez, stopped the clock at 1:13.08, appearing to have energy in reserve. It was a hat trick and three in a row for trainer Phil Hall, who, as it turns out, was not done for the evening.  Enchanted Lady, by Langfurh out of Enchanted Woods, was bred in Kentucky by the powerhouse Zayat Stables, LLC (think American Pharoah fame).

I’m a Lady Too


Larry Potozny’s three-year-old dark bay filly Ourevelady came from off the pace to take down the fifth race for her second win of the season. Overlooked by the crowd at 10 to 1, Antonio Reyes saved ground and allowed the filly to settle early, then gathered her up for a solid fifth to first stretch run.  Ourevelady (23.00, 9.00, 4.50), handled by trainer Terry Clyde, who is really having a good season, is by Revolutionary out of Kris Pit and bred in Kentucky by Don M. & Ferran Robinson.

The Promise Came True


The Hasting Racing Club 2’s hard knocking, multiple stakes placed three-year-old filly Warrior’s Promise (2.70, 2.10, 2.10) was the easiest of winners in the sixth contest of the evening, a 6 ½ furlong, three and up maiden allowance race for the girls. With Amadeo Perez in the irons, Warrior’s Promise broke sharply, tracking the Washington invader La Principessa to the first turn, where she took charge, increasing her margin of victory to 10 ¼ lengths at the wire.  It was the first win of the year for Hastings Racing Club 2 with many of its 200 members packing the winner’s circle to full capacity.   Warrior’s Promise, trained by popular Patty Leaney, is by Warrior’s Reward out of Promise Me More, bred in Kentucky by Almar Farm LLC.  Time for the race was respectable 1:18.29.

Four for Phil


George Gilbert doubled up on the card when his dark bay three-year-old gelding Ring of Kerry led from pillar to post, easily winning the penultimate race, a never won three allowance, by an ever increasing 3 ¼ lengths. Ridden by Amadeo Perez, who notched up his third winner on the evening, the favourite Ring of Kerry (3.60, 2.40, 2.20) completed the 6 ½ furlongs in the evening’s fastest time, 1:17.95 on a track which was definitely not playing fast.  For trainer Phil Hall, it was definitely an enchanted evening, as he marked his fourth winner from four starters on the card for a perfect game.  Ring of Kerry, by Flatter out of Just, was bred in Kentucky by Claiborne Farm & Adele B. Dilschneider.

Crackdown Gets Down


Scoring by ¾ length margin, Sue Ohashi’s seven-year-old chestnut gelding Crackdown (9.40, 4.20, 3.00) led throughout, completing the 6 ½ furlong journey in a quick 1:18.20 to win the last race on the card. Crackdown gave trainer Patty Leaney her second win on the program and was urged to victory by the capable Denny Velazquez.  Crackdown, a son of Scat Daddy, is out of Placerita and was bred in Florida by Canyon Lake Thoroughbreds.

The Leader Board


Trainer Phil Hall, who is having a stunningly excellent season, has been to the winner’s circle on 44 occasions. Glen Todd is next with 18 victories, with Mark Cloutier’s 14 wins taking third, and Steve Henson, Pat Jarvis and Terry Clyde all tied for fourth with 12 wins to their credit.


North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc. (Glen Todd) leads with 15 wins, closely followed by Peter Redekop’s 13 scores and third place George Gilbert’s horses have visited the winner’s circle on 11 occasions. Russell and Lois Bennett’s 8 wins holds fourth.


At this time, jockey Enrique Gonzalez holds first with 39 victories, closely followed by Antonio Reyes and Richard Hamel, who each have 37 wins, followed one back by Amadeo Perez, who has 36 scores. With three wins separating the top four jocks, this championship is bound to be a fight to the finish.


By Nigel Reid

Hamel at the double while a new rider makes her debut

Racing’s constant renewal is a large part of what makes the sport so interesting to its devotees. Each new season brings a fresh crop of horses to take on the old guard, as well as new names among the riders’ colony as the youngsters arrive at Hastings to follow their dreams.

Veteran rider Richard Hamel rode two winners on Monday evening to move one win ahead of Enrique Gonzalez in the race for leading jockey honors at Hastings while, in the sixth race, Michel Lara, daughter of successful jockey Ruben Lara, made her Hastings debut.

There can be few better riders to have aboard an unraced juvenile than Hamel. His unique blend of experience, calmness and patience are just what young horses require and he did a superb job aboard the Craig MacPherson-trained Baktura in the $25,000 Maiden Special Weight.

Baktura caught on very quickly under Hamel’s tutelage, sitting comfortably in fourth place as the leaders worked one another into a frenzy, before powering into the home turn, catching Cascade Billy and the useful Porter Gent in a matter of strides, and quickening up well down the homestretch to land the spoils by almost three lengths.

By local first-season sire Bakken, Baktura, who is a Canyon Farms homebred, was the freshman sire’s first Hastings winner, although he has already sired a Stakes victor in the shape of Bare Back Jack, who landed the Birdcatcher Stakes at Century Mile on Sunday.

Hamel opened his account for the evening aboard Demerara in the second race, a $16,000 “never won three” over six-and-a-half furlongs.

Demerara’s victory was the definition of game. Hamel steered the four-year-old immediately to the rail and The Chances R. Together, the two dominated the contest from the front before putting on a ding-dong stretch battle for the crowd. Hamel always seemed to have enough left in the tank however, and was certainly helped by Demerera’s willingness to stick out his head each time it looked looked as though he might be caught.
Demerara was winning for new owner/trainer Cindy Krasner at the first time of asking since the son of Twirling Candy was claimed from Phil Hall at the beginning of the month.

Optic, meanwhile, was claimed by his current owner/trainer Jean M. Lavallee back in July and it has taken connections a couple of runs to get a handle on the son of Gemologist. However, following two last-place finishes, the four-year-old was back in pace-setting mood in the evening’s opener, making all the running under veteran James Dailey, before skipping clear on the turn and winning the $4,000 claiming contest easily by more than six lengths. Optic’s previous connections reclaimed the horse following his win.

The third race, a $4,000 maiden claimer, went the way of the John Snow-trained Brandon’s Legacy and apprentice rider Learie Seecharan, in what turned into a straightforward victory that also scuppered a gamble on the favourite Mario’s Mistake into the bargain.

Enrique Gonzalez aboard Broadway Dave joined Seecharan as they approached the clubhouse turn and the duo dominated proceedings until, nearing the far turn, Seecharan’s mount changed up a gear and left Broadway Dave gasping. From then, it was a question of how much was left to call on in deep stretch as the rest of the field began to close in ominously. The answer was: enough.

Trainer John Snow bred the winner in partnership with his wife Tammy and also is part of the syndicate of owners, alongside William Dobbie, Alison Tonner, John Hetherington and Yerxa Racing Stable.

Trainer Mel Snow’s recent winning form continued with an emphatic win for Roger Snow’s Yes Please in the fifth, a $6250 claiming contest over six-and-a-half furlongs. Sitting just off what seemed like a pretty rapid early pace under Jose Asencio, Yes Please, who was also winning first time off the claim for his trainer, caught long time leader Tattooed Kitty at the top of the stretch and quickly turned back the runner-up. The winner was claimed again (for the third time this season) afterwards, with trainer Phil Hall coming out on top of an eight-way shake.

The winner apart, the sixth race, a $4,000 “never won two”, was the Hastings debut for young jockey Michel Lara, daughter of the popular regional rider, Ruben Lara. Michel, who is also an exercise rider in the mornings, arrived in Vancouver following a couple of wins in Mexico and, given her ability to ride at light weights, she will be hoping to quickly become established in Vancouver.

Michel rode longshot Alderglory for trainer Christine Ammann. There was no fairy tale finish, but the horse ran well enough for his young rider and, given the opportunities, it will probably not be too long before she is in the winner’s circle. She’s certainly a most welcome recruit, and she joins a long tradition of Mexican equine expertise that has proved itself down the years to be essential to the smooth and successful running of the racetrack.

Oh, by the way, the race went to Enrique Gonzalez aboard Speedy Miss for trainer Phil Hall and owner/breeder Elton Gunther in a driving finish that saw the gate-to-wire leader repel all-comers down the home straight. Gonzalez, presumably straining every sinew to peg back Hamel in the title race, was a neck to the good at the wire as Speedy Miss followed up on her $8,000 maiden claimer win at the beginning of August.

A tricky-looking nightcap went the way of Romario Saunders aboard Bills Smokn Bullet for trainer Nancy Betts and owners Wishful Thinking Friends and Garry Ferguson.

Saunders was presented with the racing equivalent of an open goal when Denny Velazquez and Vintage Man slowed suddenly half-way down the home stretch and was nursed across the line by his sympathetic rider in fourth place.

Saunders, who must have initially thought he was chasing the runner-up spot after he’d been headed by Vintage Man on the home turn, needed no second invitation and quickly grabbed his opportunity, driving the speedy Bluegrass Cat gelding back into a winning lead. The winner was notching a third victory of the year from just six Hastings starts and was claimed afterwards by trainer Tara Neigel.

An on-track handle of almost $56,000 was almost identical to last year’s figure, while the off-track handle of more than $580,000 continued the seasonal trend of being noticeably up on last year’s figure ($533,000).


By Nigel Reid

Mel Snow enjoys a Friday night feast with Boss and Driller

Everyone involved in this glorious sport of ours knows how costly it can be, so those few bargains that, each year, we see progress from inexpensive sales ring acquisition to valuable CTHS Stakes race winner are a welcome encouragement to the rest of us.


The Mel Snow-trained Slew’s Da Boss is the perfect example. The son of Cause to Believe cost his trainer just $6,500 as a CTHS yearling and, since then, has hit the board ten times from 15 races, earning his owners, Snow, Doug Corsan and Len Houweling, more than $80,000 in the process.

The four-year-old’s win in the boy’s division of the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes Race also proved something of a catharsis, or at least for trainer and owners, as the horse stumbled exiting the gate on his previous appearance, ejecting his hapless rider Alex Marti into the Hastings’ dirt in the process.

Sadly, Marti is still on the injured list after undergoing surgery to have a plate inserted into a broken collarbone, and he must have watched the race with somewhat mixed feelings.

However, the horse clearly suffered no ill effects from the previous mishap and looked in tremendous shape on Friday, scooting up the rail from a stalking position under Antonio Reyes to quickly put daylight between himself and the long time leader, European.

The heavy favourite for the CTHS Restricted Stakes contest was last season’s BC Derby runner-up, Weekend Wizard. Mysteriously, despite moving into a threatening position on the home turn, the son of Rosberg quickly weakened and beat just one home.


Slew’s Da Boss capped an evening to remember for Mel Snow (although it’s probably fair to say that he’s had quite a few of those down the years), after the evergreen Driller got off the mark for the season by taking the $20,000, six-and-a-half furlong, allowance contest under the impressive guidance of Amadeo Perez.

The five-year-old son of Texas Wildcatter, who was bred by Snow and is also part owned by the trainer with Don Danard, has now won six of his 26 races and helped pay plenty of expenses with more than $180,000 in prize money.


The fillies’ division of the $50,000 CTHS Stakes also provided a mild shock for bettors at least, when the Rob Gilker trained Butterscotch Blend turned over the short-priced favourite Northern Graystar by two-and-a-half lengths, winning a big purse and breaking her maiden at the same time.

Butterscotch Blend, a $20,000 purchase at the 2017 CTHS Yearling and Mixed Sale, may have been sent off as an outsider by the betting public but, despite being a maiden, was no longshot in terms of ability.

Once raced as a two-year-old, the daughter of Mission Impazible has been an improving sort during her sophomore campaign, and she gave a serious hint of real talent on her previous run, when splitting Cha Ching and Warrior’s Promise in what looked like a better-than-average Maiden Special Weight.

Sent in hot pursuit of the leader Northern Graystar by rider Jose Asencio as the six-strong field turned for home, the pair quickly caught their prey before inching clear along the home straight, finally turning back the odds-on shot to win by an impressive two-and-a-half lengths.

The two major races of the evening may have eluded jockey Richard Hamel, but he certainly made amends by taking the final three contests of the seven-race card.


The hat-trick began when Hamel got Bad Girl up in the final strides to take a six-and-a-half furlong $4,000 maiden claiming event for trainer Steve Henson and owner Mark Ivy.


The second win was an even narrower affair. Hamel, aboard the Steve Bryant-trained Pioneerof of the West in the first leg of the season’s three-race marathon series, stalked the field in a handy spot before protecting a small lead most of the way up the straight to hold off the late rally of Sanawar by a head. The photo finish call is almost always unnecessary where Hamel’s concerned. He seems, instinctively, to know where the wire is and, more often than not, he invariably prevails.


The three-timer was secured with less drama, but no little skill, as the veteran led his rivals a merry dance aboard the Mark Cloutier-trained Little Groot in the nightcap, an $8,000 maiden claimer.

Owned by Marty Miller, Little Groot led virtually every yard of the six-and-a-half furlong contest, with Hamel traveling easily enough throughout, merely rousting his mount at the turn before drawing clear of Denny Velazquez and Reprimand to win by three-and-a-half lengths.


The only easier winner of the evening came in the opener, a $4,000 “never won two” claimer over six-and-a-half furlongs, which had rider Romario Saunders peering between his legs in search of challengers to his mount, Arranger. There were none, however, and the pair sauntered to a four-and-a-half length, gate-to-wire victory for trainer Nancy Betts and owner Richard Hunter.

A fairly healthy crowd of racegoers enjoyed the first Friday night of the annual PNE fair, helping to generate an on-track betting turnover of more than $93,000 – down marginally when compared to the same night 12 months ago.

Meanwhile, the gross handle of $450,000, bolstered by seven competitive contests that included two $50,000 Stakes races and a $20,000 allowance event, continued this year’s trend of being noticeably up on last year.


Hastings on a Monday-night high after Explode’s Derby heroics


There is little doubt where we must begin today’s round-up of racing events at Hastings for the first of two Monday evenings this year – and that’s at Edmonton 24 hours earlier!

The Mark Cloutier-trained Explode won the first Canadian Derby run at Century Mile, stamping his authority on one of the best fields ever assembled for the historic race and providing a magnificent fillip to the horsewomen and men plying their trade in East Van.

Owned by Ole Nielsen, the victory by the son of Trappe Shot was not a huge shock. He was, after all, the best two-year-old male at Hastings last season and, this year, has only cemented his reputation with three high-profile wins from four races.

The $250,000 race might have been decided in the stewards’ room, but there was little doubt by anyone watching that the original “winner” would get taken down. Explode and leading Hastings’ jockey Amadeo Perez were leant on and taken several paths wide down the long Century Mile home straight, and the interference certainly prevented Explode from passing the post first. The stewards’ decision was inevitable.

Explode, bred by the famous Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings, was snaffled up as a weanling by Nielsen for just $2,500 at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 2016 as part of a draft of horses bought to help the Hastings horse population. When the youngster failed to make his reserve as a yearling at the CTHS Yearling and Mixed Sale, Nielsen retained the horse in what must go down as one of the great bargains of recent years.

Racing at Hastings on Monday evening was more quotidian fare by comparison, but was not without its pulsating moments.

The most valuable purse of the night was the $16,000 on offer for the $25,000 optional claimer run over six-and-a half furlongs, and went to Volo Veloce, a three-year-old son of the late single-crop stallion, Shrug.


Trained by in-form handler Pat Jarvis for owners Elphinstone Racing, Darin Macey and Gail Jewsbury, Volo Veloce has been knocking on the door for a while, and has shown definite glimpses of class that suggested he was in with a chance on Monday. Rousted up by Richard Hamel going into the home turn, the gelding quickly created some daylight between himself and his pursuers at the top of the lane and stayed on resolutely to the wire to break his maiden at the eleventh time of asking.

Volo Veloce had run well over a mile-and-sixteenth on his previous run and looked as though the longer races might be where any future success lay. He disproved that theory on Monday evening, much to the delight of his connections.

The rather disappointing Monday-evening crowd was buoyed by the presence of around 50 Hastings Racing Club members on hand to support their respective Club I and Club II runners in a race dedicated to the club’s stalwart, and recent retiree, Shooting Jacket.

The Steve Henson-trained Square Dancer and Fast Bid, representing the Pat Jarvis team, faced off in the mile-and-sixteenth Shooting Jacket Retirement Purse, with Square Dancer landing the bragging rights between the two clubs by staying on well to take third behind the Glen Todd-trained, Highway Boss.

Fast Bid finished out of the money, but was racing against boys on her first run at the track since arriving from California earlier in the summer.


Ridden confidently by Denny Velazquez, Highway Boss could not have been more emphatic, pulling his rider into a challenging position along the back stretch before taking control of the heat at the top of the lane and holding off the late challenge of Sunset Drive by a length and a half.

Winning connections were presented with a custom-made blanket sporting the legend “Happy Retirement Shooting Jacket”, as well as a logo for the New Stride Thoroughbred Adoption Society. New Stride have graciously agreed to help transition Shooting Jacket into a new discipline now that his illustrious racing career has come to an end after eight wins from 53 starts and lifetime earnings of more than $220,000.

Highway Boss is no “also ran” in the stalwart stakes, either, and Monday’s win was his seventh in a 46-start career that has included a couple of Black Type contests. The seven-year-old will be deserving of a blanket in his own name before too long.


Jockey Antonio Reyes kept his title challenge ticking over by taking the first race aboard Gabi’s Bay Bae for trainer Terry Clyde and owner James Redekop.

In a race that set the theme for slow opening quarters for the evening, the three-year-old Sligo Bay gelding was breaking his maiden at the sixth time of asking, and he was gaining compensation for his previous run when he was a victim of traffic issues down the home stretch.


Trainer Ryan Deyotte has only a small string with which to do battle, but he has now welcomed two of his three individual runners this season back to the winner’s circle. Run Harvey Run, who Deyotte trains for J T Racing, took the second race of the evening, a “never won four” $4,000 claiming contest over eight-and-a-half furlongs, by just a nose in a head-bobbing thriller of a finish, which saw the five-year-old’s pilot Learie Seecharan hold off the determined challenge of Moussaka Chef.

Cyclone Dan took the third race, another variation on a $4,000 claiming contest run over eight-and-a-half furlongs, for trainer Bruce Unwin and rider Jose Gomez.


Unwin, who bred Cyclone Dan and part owns the five-year-old Storm Victory gelding with Dreamtime Stable and Todd Foster, is another trainer with only a small army with which to go to war, but he has been in rare form of late. Indeed, only three of Unwin’s fifteen runners this season have finished further back than fourth. Cyclone Dan was winning for the second consecutive time but, as expected beforehand, was claimed after the race and joins the Pat Jarvis barn.


The Phil Hall-trained Yellow Bonnet gave jockey Enrique Gonzalez his second winner since his recent return from compassionate leave to nudge two wins clear of Antonio Reyes at the top of the table.

Yellow Bonnet, a six-year-old Hat Trick mare owned by Peter Redekop, was winning for the second time this season from just four starts since being claimed from Santa Anita last summer. The win was number 40 of the season for Hall as he strengthened his vice-like grip on the top of the Hastings leaderboard.


The nightcap went the way of the Erick Gutierrez-trained Amorcito, who was ridden by Julio Roque for owners G. O. Stables. In keeping with the theme of the evening Amorcito, a three-year-old Finality filly, was a welcome second winner of the season for a trainer who has a small string of equine athletes with which to go racing.

The evening’s on-track handle of close to $51,000 was a reflection on the modest crowd in attendance, while the gross handle of more than $417,000 was also a little down on the same fixture last year.

Racing resumes at Hastings on Friday evening with seven competitive-looking races headlined by two divisions of the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes contests.




Racegoers treated to Hamel tour de force

Few sports hide their human superstars away to the same extent as racing often seems to do. There are a handful of exceptions, of course. But modern jockeys with global, or even national, recognition are few.

It’s certainly difficult to think of another sport, in Canada at least, where the leading protagonists would be anything other than household names across the country if they displayed even a half the athleticism, courage and swiftness of thought displayed by riders on an average day at Hastings.

Racegoers fortunate enough to be at the East Van oval on Friday were treated to another tour de force by Richard Hamel, as he came from considerably off the pace to secure victory in the dying strides not once, but twice.


Indeed, his chances seemed nothing short of forlorn aboard Always Sunny in the six furlong “never won four” claiming contest. He was “out with the washing” going along the back straight and still last of eight runners as the field swung for home. But, as in most sports, momentum is everything and Hamel had his mount, a six-year-old Sungold gelding trained by Brian O’Connell, motoring as he launched an audacious eight-wide challenge down the lane and, overcoming a bump along the way, prevailed by a neck. Phew, what a ride!

Owned by Nite and Day Stable, Terry Ceraldi, and Peter Lemon, Always Sunny was winning for the second time this season and has run solidly enough in all his runs this year. However, whatever he achieves in the future, it’s hard to see him matching the drama of Friday night.

Hamel continued as thrill-seeker-in-chief in the very next race, letting the frontrunners battle it out among themselves until challenging four wide into the home bend and, pushing and cajoling the Steve Bryant-trained Fright Night for all he was worth, getting to the leader Doobiedoobiedoobie right at the wire. The photo took a while, but Fright Night, a three-year-old son of New Years Day owned by Big Fly Stables, got the verdict by a head.

Fright Night’s victory was his second in three starts since coming to Hastings and his win represented a step up on his previous success. There may well be more to come.


Hastings welcomed back a couple of jockeys on Friday. Amadeo Perez returned from injury and drew a blank, but it took Enrique Gonzalez exactly no time whatsoever to find his stride after returning from compassionate leave. Gonzalez helped make a mockery of Zetamarie’s near 12-1 odds, steering the three-year-old Drosselmeyer filly to a fairly straightforward victory in the opener (a $16,000 claimer) for trainer Frank Barroby and owners Gary Johnson, Zeta Hannah, Sharlea Stables and Pumpkin Stable. Zetamarie has been threatening to win again since her maiden victory last season and it was good to see her finally put it all together again here.

The absence of several Hastings riders through injury this season has created an opportunity for other jockeys to benefit and the hard-working Rigo Sarmiento struck again in the second race, a “never won three” claimer with a field of six running for $8,000 tags over six-and-a-half furlongs.


Partnering Master Ewan for trainer Rob Maybin, Sarmiento quickly recovered from a hop at the start before boldly attacking up the rail to win another crowd-pleasing head-bobber.

Sarmiento has been splitting his time between Century Mile in Edmonton and Hastings these past few weeks and will be back in action on the flat side of the Rockies again this weekend, when his full book of rides includes the Phil Hall/Peter Redekop favourite Final Jeopardy in Sunday’s Canadian Derby.


Well-contested two-year-old events are more than just races; they are data flows of invaluable information for bettors looking to future wagering opportunities. Several of the nine youngsters who contested the third race looked to have winning chances, but it was the favourite Bookie who prevailed for trainer Dino Condilenios and owner/breeders Swift Thoroughbreds. This was another crowd thriller, with a wall of horses strung across the track turning for home before Antonio Reyes, who had been in the front rank for the entire six-furlong journey, finally managed to find some clear space between his mount and their pursuers.


Trainer John Snow legged up apprentice rider Learie Seecharan to land the fourth aboard the veteran, Twistgrips. Following these older crowd favourites is one of the best aspects of our sport and it was gratifying to see the ol’ fella put on his best performance of the year to land this $12,500 claimer by a length. Owned and bred by Gordon Christoff, Twistgrips’ shining light has diminished little this season, as his two wins and a second from five runs prove, and he remains a credit to his connections.


The nightcap fell to Denny Velazquez aboard the Cindy Krasner-trained Postman, in what was another close finish that sent the PNE-fair-eve crowd home happy. Purchased from Swift Thoroughbred privately at the end of last season by Pat Gormley, Postman has hit the board in his three previous runs and was not winning out of turn.

A fairly healthy Friday night crowd enjoyed cool weather to go with their cold beverages, and they helped produce an on-track handle of close to $100,000, which was a little down on last year. The gross handle, at $460,000, was a little up on last year’s fixture.

Racing resumes at Hastings on Monday evening with the first race scheduled for 6pm. Parking will be complimentary as there is no PNE on Monday.



Asencio rides his luck with impressive four-timer

Luck is a word you hear a lot at races and, when you see the trouble horses can get into in a race, it’s frankly a mild shock when the plan actually works as anticipated.


For rider Jose Asencio, the plan is certainly working and he is riding a successful wave with great confidence at present. On Sunday, he booted home a four-timer that included the afternoon’s pair of feature races, a $25,000 maiden special weight and a $20,000 allowance.


Fully Lent, who confirmed the positive impression she gave on her debut when finishing third to the speedy Everything’s Quiet, won the fillies’ maiden special. She led every yard of the six furlongs under Asencio, breaking sharply, burning off some pretenders along the backstretch and then holding off the eye-catching debutante, Sangria.

A graduate of last year’s CTHS yearling sale, where her trainer David Forster bought her, Fully Lent was a second winner by the first-season BC sire, Lent – whose other winner from only a few runners so far, was the impressive Yo Zackly. Owned by Dr. Karl Cha, Forster Stable and Cameron Hill Mortgages, Fully Lent looks the sort to give connections a lot more fun in the months ahead.

That luck we mentioned at the beginning deserted Stoneridge Amber in Fully Lent’s race. She broke slowly and hopped from the gate under Romario Saunders. Then, bustled up by her rider, she clipped heels and very nearly came down at the first turn. Saunders did well to take avoiding action at the last second.


And the racing gods were far from done with Stoneridge Amber’s trainer, Mel Snow. His Slew’s Da Boss stumbled out of the gate at the start of the $20,000 allowance contest, hurling rider Alex Marti suddenly and violently into the dirt. The fall resulted in an injured collarbone for Marti.

To add insult to injury, the horse then proceeded to run his heart out with no rider, getting the loudest cheer of the day for “winning” the mile-and-sixteenth contest in a close finish with the real winner, R W Stanley and Jose Asencio. Trying to get the best position for your horse while second guessing the likely movements of a loose runner is terrifying enough from the stands, and Asencio deserve credit for remaining calm and avoiding further involvement with the “wild card”.

Owned by Nite and Day Stable and Joanne Todd, and trained by Brian O’Connell, R W Stanley, who Asencio kept well positioned in fourth for much of the race before launching his bid on the home turn, made it two consecutive wins after taking a similar contest in July by a nose from the luckless Slew’s Da Boss. Such are the margins.


Asencio’s second winner of the afternoon came in the fifth race. Partnering Harlan’s Angel in the $4,000 “never won two” claimer for fillies and mares for owner Cindy Krasner, he sat just behind the leaders until edging his mount into a lead at the home turn, before taking command and easily holding the rallying Shez Wicked Fast by three-and-a-half lengths.


The four-timer was secured in the nightcap, another $4,000 claiming contest – this one a maiden three-year-olds and up. Quagmire, a three-year-old son of BC-based sire, Storm Victory, has finished third on each of his previous three runs for trainer Steve Henson and owners Lorie Henson, Helen Klimes and Sharon Pring. Smartly away under Asencio, Quagmire saw off the dueling Broadway Dave on the home turn and ran on well to break his maiden by more than four lengths.


It’s taken Saturna a few more runs than Quagmire to lose her maiden tag but, in the second race of the afternoon, the Pat Jarvis-trained daughter of Cause To Believe, seemingly relishing the step-up to eight-and-a-half furlongs, gave little cause for concern to owners The Saturna Syndicate or rider Antonio Reyes.

Settling comfortably off the pace before moving smoothly through to take the lead at the top of the lane, the little grey held a near four-length lead at the wire. The win, at the ninth time of asking, gave her small syndicate of owners a huge thrill, as well as a gorgeous bunch of flowers from the thoughtful race sponsors, PLLR Lawyers.


Jose Asencio’s quadruple rather overshadowed the double for Glen Todd’s retained rider Denny Velazquez. The talented jockey took the first, a $4,000 claimer for fillies and mares, aboard Seeking Bull for Todd and his North American Thoroughbred Horse Company; rallying three wide to take the lead at the top of the stretch and drive clear of recent winner, Mori Girl.


Velazquez’ second winner came in the sixth race, an $8,000 claiming contest over six-and-a-half furlongs for three-year-old fillies only, which he took aboard You Got This for owner/trainer Cindy Krasner, who was also greeting her second winner for the afternoon following Harlan’s Angel in the previous race. You Got This, a daughter of Gio Ponte was winning for the second time in four runs since being claimed by Krasner back in May.

The continued absence of several high-profile riders has heightened the congested look to the jockeys’ table this season. Velazquez’ double moved him on to 22 wins for the season, while Richard Hamel sneaked above the injured Amadeo Perez in terms of money earned when taking the afternoon’s fourth race, a $4,000 “never won four” claimer, aboard Plane Lucky for owner Marty Miller and trainer Mark Cloutier.



Plane Lucky’s win, her second in a row, was another clinic in riding from the front by Hamel. Her victory was also a first off the claim for Cloutier, making it four wins in total for the six-year-old Lucky Pulpit mare.

The damp weather lead to a rather smaller crowd than a sunny Sunday gathering, and the on-track handle of almost $102,000 was some $25,000 down on the 2018 equivalent figure. The off-track gross, by contrast, was yet again significantly up on 12 months ago, coming in at more than $727,500, compared to $522,000 in 2018.




Moon rises to keep Hall and Redekop in the groove



Leading trainer Phil Hall and owner Peter Redekop enjoyed a highly successful BC Cup Day on Monday, and the good run continued at Hastings on Friday evening when Redekop’s homebred two-year-old Above the Moon took the feature race, a $25,000 Maiden Special Weight.

The grand-looking son of Harbor the Gold was sent off favorite to give connections a second two-year-old win of the week, following Monday’s impressive At Attention in the $50,000 BC Cup Nursery Stakes.

Out of the Malibu Moon mare, Mille Luna, Above the Moon is a half-brother to the former CTHS Sales Stakes winner, European and yearling spotters will already know that there is a full-brother catalogued for this year’s CTHS Yearling and Mixed Sale in September (hip #29).

Ridden confidently by Alberta-based Rigo Sarmiento, Above the Moon was content to sit in behind the melee unfolding in front of him going into the home turn, before exploiting a seam and smoothly moving through to take up the running. Desert Hills caught the eye in second, quickening up nicely down the lane without ever really threatening the winner.


Hall was back in the winner’s circle later in the evening as trainer and owner of the gate-to-wire winner Flemings Beach, who led a competitive-looking field a merry dance – rider Richard Hamel keeping enough in hand to turn back all raiders down the home stretch in trademark style.

Flemings Beach was winning first time off the claim for Hall, although any euphoria may have been short-lived as the dashing, near white, eight-year-old son of Cause To Believe was claimed again after his win. Nancy Betts is the new trainer.

One of the most captivating sideshows of the current season is watching the Seecharan twins trade winners with each other. Lenny has the upper hand at present with 10 wins to Learie’s five, but both were in the winner’s circle again on Friday night.


Lenny bagged the opener, a “never won two” $4,000 claimer, aboard Horst for trainer Patty Leaney and owners Rod McIvor, Ken McFarlane and Greg Poole. A three-year-old son of Teide, Horst was driven up the rail going into the clubhouse turn and from then on was never headed, the pair drawing right away from Storm Rocket down the homestretch to win by more than seven lengths.


Brother Learie responded in similar style in the fifth, driving Pulmarack up the rail going into the home turn and scampering clear to win as he liked by the identically-impressive margin of seven-and-a-quarter lengths. Pulmarack, a son of Lucky Pulpit, was a welcome first winner of the season for trainer Peter Milburn, who also part owns Pulmarack in partnership with Susan Milburn and Mark Freeman.


Winners take on greater significance for the smaller handlers, such as Milburn, and that’s a sentiment that holds true also for owner/trainer Bruce Unwin. He was on hand to greet Tobelucky Again following the fourth race, when the three-year-old Storm Victory gelding (who Unwin also bred) came with a rattling run under Jose Gomez to catch and pass the pacesetters and win, drawing away, by almost three lengths.

Leading riders Amadeo Perez and Enrique Gonzalez are still out of action and their absence provided the perfect opportunity for Antonio Reyes to close the gap at the top of the jockeys’ table. Reyes is top by virtue of prize-money won, and a win aboard Martello in the second race pushed his total number of wins onto 31, one fewer than Perez and three behind Gonzalez.



The Pat Jarvis-owned-and-trained Martello, who was was winning for the third time this season, looked very well in the paddock and won this $4,000 “never won four” claiming contest in a fairly straightforward manner; sitting off a fast pace under Reyes until turning for home and then sweeping through to hold off all challengers by a length.


The nightcap, on an evening that drew a fair crowd of Friday night revelers, went the way of Playgirl Pixie and rider Jose Asencio for trainer Mark Cloutier and owners, Ram Investments. The four-year-old Finality filly was bustled into an early lead by Asencio and, from there, the pair was never headed.

Indeed, the rider was glancing around for likely dangers turning for home and, seeing none, let out a reef and held on tight to the tiller as his mount scampered clear to win the $4,000 maiden claimer by almost five lengths.

Those on-track revelers helped push the handle to a respectable $81,597, while the gross handle, at more than $528,000, followed the seasonal trend of being up on the same fixture last year.


By Nigel Reid

Heads and Hall share the spoils in BC Cup Day feast of racing

It’s not easy to know where to begin when reporting on the sumptuous feast of racing that is the annual BC Cup Day.

There were dramatic finishes, hugely impressive winners and the appearance of two crowd favourite fillies. There was also the return to the fold of jet-setting jockey Mario Gutierrez and guest appearances by the likes of Rigo Sarmiento (from Century Mile) and Sahin Civaci, who was returning to Hastings from Woodbine, where he has been riding this season.

It’s also important to note, especially for the region’s breeding community, that horses bred in British Columbia won seven of the ten races on Sunday. Each BC-bred winner of an “Open” Stakes contest on BC Cup Day also earned his or her owners a $25,000 bonus – which will certainly come in handy at next month’s CTHS Yearling and Mixed Sale, where there will be many more BC-breds on offer.

But it is the collective achievements of trainers Barb Heads and Phil Hall that take the headlines. Heads’ impressive haul of four winners included a quite sensational performance by Infinite Patience in the Debutante Stakes, while leading trainer Hall saddled three winners on what is one of the most valuable day’s racing in the Pacific Northwest.


The afternoon began with Here’s Hannah giving the crowd another treat. She’s so good that opponents now duck the challenge, but she still had three high-quality rivals to dispense with in the $50,000 Derby Bar and Grill BC Cup Distaff Handicap.

Trained by John Morrison for owners BC Stables, Here’s Hannah didn’t have things all her own way under Richard Hamel, but the four-year-old daughter of Numaany proved equal to the task set boldly by the dueling Bear. The pair had the race to themselves well before the home turn and, for a second, it appeared as though Hannah might be in trouble. We should all have a little more faith in the striking chestnut powerhouse by now, however, and she responded to Hamel’s urgings to turn back Bear and win by a length-and-a-half.

Special mention to the connections of Bear, who must all be delighted at how far they have come with their bargain buy at the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale in March. The Super Saver filly cost just $3,000 at the auction, but has now won three and finished second twice from her five outings this season. She is clearly not a straightforward filly to look after, but she seems to thrive on her racing and looked in terrific shape in the paddock.

All four of Barb Heads’ winners were partnered by Antonio Reyes, including a quite magnificent display of speed and power by Infinite Patience in the $50,000, six-and-a-half furlong, BC Cup Debutante Stakes for juvenile fillies.


Owned by her breeder William DeCoursey in partnership with Edmonton Oiler Ryan Nugent Hopkins’ R. N. H. Stables, Infinite Patience looked a bit special on her winning debut last month, and any thoughts that this step up to Stakes grade might be coming along a little too soon for the daughter of Sungold, proved well wide of the mark.

Bounced out in front by Reyes, the two-year-old immediately took command, had everything off the bridle before the home turn and, pushed out by her rider, extended her lead to win by more than 11 lengths. The time was also fast, although the clock is fairly meaningless when it involves horses of this caliber.


The boys’ version of the juvenile contests, the $50,000 BC Cup Nursery Stakes, was an altogether more competitive event with the Phil Hall/Peter Redekop team’s At Attention finally coming out on top following the robust urgings of guest rider, Rigo Sarmiento.

Owned and bred by Redekop, the BC-bred son of Shanghai Bobby looked quite a handful in the early stages, but once Sarmiento had his mount settled, the pair made steady ground to join the fray midway down the homestretch and, after several reminders from his pilot, eventually put his best foot forward.

Incidentally, the boys race, despite a three-way duel and a late charge by the winner, was run in a time more than a second slower than Infinite Patience managed, in a canter, 25 minutes earlier.

Heads and Hall traded big-race wins all afternoon and the next event, a $25,000 Maiden Special Weight for fillies and mares, went the way of ‘RJ’ and Lois Bennett’s homebred filly, Cha Ching, who battled on bravely to beat the tenacious Butterscotch Blend by a neck.


The same connections were back in the winner’s circle just 30 minutes later after Sunburst, another Bennett homebred, saw off a talented field of fillies to land the BC Cup Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap Stakes in a good old fashioned rout, coming home more than seven lengths ahead of a chasing pack led by Amazonian.

This trial for next month’s BC Oaks had looked something of a formality for the odds-on favourite Summerland, who had won eight of her nine starts prior to Sunday. Whether there was something amiss with the filly, or whether she just didn’t like being the meat in a dueling sandwich for the early part of the race, may come out in fullness of time. Nothing should be taken away from the winner, however, who now looks to be a leading Oaks candidate.


The 31st running of the $50,000 BC Cup Sir Winston Churchill Derby Trial was an opportunity for the public to cast their eyes over a Stakes-class horse having his first run at Hastings – let’s hope it’s the first of many, because Five Star General put on a thrilling display of front running under Kentucky Derby-winning rider, Mario Gutierrez.

Bought by Glen Todd’s North American Thoroughbred Horse Company at the recent Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age Sale in Kentucky, the son of Distorted Humour is a real looker, with talent to match those film star looks. Not the biggest, he prowled fluidly and calmly around the paddock prior to the mile and sixteenth contest, seemingly saving his energy for the race.

It took a few furlongs to see off his dueling cohorts before Gutierrez took sole charge at the head of affairs. Extending into the home turn, Five Star General needed only to be kept up to his work by Mario. The colt’s style of running suggests he is a laid-back dude who needs to be reminded of his responsibilities, but there was no arguing with the decisiveness of his near three-length victory.


Last season’s BC Cup Premier’s Handicap winner Calgary Caper has been knocking on the door of a big win all season and, reunited with Sahin Civaci for the first time since that G3 victory last October, the veteran of 43 previous races made it win number 11 with a last-to-first run that had the crowd on its feet.

Owned by Kim Peacock and Lance Geisbrecht in partnership with trainer Phil Hall, Calgary Caper swept past the long time leader He’s The Reason coming out of the final turn and saw off his resolute challenger by more than three lengths.

Hall was back in the winner’s circle following the next race to greet Peter Redekop’s Maiden Special Weight winner, Aleutian Harbour.

Ridden to great effect by Rigo Sarmiento, Aleutian Harbour was given every opportunity to find his stride and finally got going very late to break his maiden a half-length, and at the tenth time of asking. Another Redekop homebred, the son of Harbour The Gold has been well regarded by connections and their perseverance finally paid off on Sunday.

The final event of a magnificent day’s racing capped an afternoon to remember for “Team Heads” when Sunset Drive, yet another Bennetts’ homebred, held off the late, late show of He’s Got Ego to win the $20,000 BC Cup Marathon Starter Handicap by a neck under Antonio Reyes.

Although Reyes was always going to partner Sunset Drive, he did step in to partner Sunburst earlier in the afternoon as a substitute for the unfortunate Scott Williams.

The Hastings jockey colony is enduring some tough sledding at present, and the popular local boy Williams suffered a heavy fall on Friday that will see him sidelined for a while. Williams was also due to partner the Keith Pedersen-trained Sword Fighter in the second race, a $16,000 claiming contest which, as the law of sod dictates, the horse duly won. Romario Saunders was the more than capable substitute.

A thought, too, for leading rider Enrique Gonzalez who has returned home following the passing of his father. He was scheduled to ride several subsequent winners on what is one of the most important day’s racing of the year for riders anxious to make their mark. He has our condolences and we look forward to welcoming him back when he feels able.

A good-sized crowd enjoyed the sweltering sunshine and a fantastic afternoon’s racing that saw healthy handles. The track generated more than $252,000 on-site, while the gross handle was less than a buck short of $1.2 million.