Fillies to the fore in Deighton Cup Day features

The delightful summer madness that is Deighton Cup Day at Hastings added
an exotic flavor to the sports as a bonanza crowd of revelers, basking in
glorious sunshine, attempted to find the winners of nine competitive races.
The afternoon was anchored by a brace of $20,000 allowance contests. The
first was a “never won two” over eight-and-a-half furlongs for three-year-
olds only. The second, an intriguing “never won three” over six-and-a-half
furlongs for three- and four-year-old fillies.


And, wouldn’t you know it, fillies took both legs. The open contest fell to the
sole filly in the race when the Glen Todd-trained Amazonian saw off a
collection of classy boys under Denny Velazquez to beat Stay Fantastic by
two-and-three quarter lengths. Her effort was made a little easier when
heavy favourite Dat Day fluffed his lines by fighting for his head during the
early part of the race.
Amazonian, a lovely-looking daughter of Malibu Moon that cost the North
American Thoroughbred Horse Company $50,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, continues to go from strength to strength. She was always travelling easily for Velazquez down on the rail and, once asked to take the office, she quickened into a decisive lead. The next step up will be harder
still, but she seems as though she is capable of a little more yet.


The “fillies only” allowance provided the huge crowd with the most thrilling
finish of the day, and very nearly also went the way of Todd and his red and
white chequerboard silks. Instead, it was the Dino Condilenios-trained Tiptoe
who, under Antonio Reyes, came late and wide around the home turn,
making up significant ground to catch Flight Data and Northern Graystar,
before inching up to Northern Graystar and prevailing by a head.
This was quite some training performance by Condilenios. Tiptoe was making
her first appearance of the season, and last ran back in September when
finishing runner-up in the prestigious British Columbia Oaks. The sweet-
looking daughter of Tiz Wonderful, who defeated a horse highly regarded by
Todd, capped a good weekend for the trainer and owners Swift
Thoroughbreds after they won a valuable juvenile event the previous


Antonio Reyes continues to ride in terrific form, and he was back in the
winner’s circle just 25 minutes later, after a slightly less stressful couple of
minutes aboard the Craig MacPherson-trained La Mer – the pair sauntering
home by more than eight lengths in a $4,000 claiming contest.


It was a case of doubles all round, too, for veteran Richard Hamel. The
double was completed when he landed the Deighton Cup (run as an $8,000
claiming contest) aboard the well-backed favourite, Pioneer of the West, for
trainer Steve Bryant and owners Big Fly Stables; the pair stalking their prey
down on the rail before launching a three-wide challenge at the turn and
holding off Sanawar by just under a length. The Florida-bred son of Pioneer
of the Nile was following up on his win earlier in the month, and that’s two
from three now for the seven-year-old since he arrived at Hastings from
Santa Anita in June.


The first half of Hamel’s daily double came aboard Panning For Gold, a
Hastings veteran who finally lost his maiden tag at the 23 rd time of asking!
The five-year-old has certainly been knocking on the door and was a runner-
up on his previous two runs. Hopefully, there will be a well-earned carrot in
the shape of a champagne bottle to go with the real stuff for trainer Charlene
Miler and owners Warren Wilson, Lesley Small, Kyle Miller and Donna Hesse.
Anyone who reads these reports regularly (you have my sympathy) knows
that I feel Julio Roque to be an underrated and underused rider. And he did
little to alter that opinion when he blasted two-year-old longshot Some Gold
out of the gate to land the three-and-a-half furlong maiden claimer by a half-
length in typically bustling, gate-to-wire, style. That’s three wins and a
handful of in-the-money finishes from just 26 rides for Roque, and he is well
on target to eclipse his total from last year’s debut season.
A son of Gottcha Gold, Some Gold was winning on his career debut for
trainer Milton Palma and owner Tamara Baker, and he beat some more
favored runners here. A special mention should also go to the outrider crew,
who very quickly foiled Torino Grand’s bid for escape prior to the start of the
race, preventing what could have been a nasty incident in the process.

Trainer John Snow has his barn in fine form at present, with only one of his
previous ten starters during the past week finishing outside the first four.
Assisted by wife Tammy, John legged up apprentice Lenny Seecharan to take
the penultimate race of a long afternoon with One Last Hit for owner James
Snow claimed the five-year-old son of Sierra Sunset out of an $8,000 claimer
back in June and this win at $16,000, after a third-place finish for a $12,500
tag, represents a feather in his cap.
Snow struck again at the claims box following the first race, when securing
the Canmor Farms-owned winner Next Otis for $4,000 in a two-way shake.


Ridden by current leading rider Amadeo Perez for trainer Mark Cloutier, Next
Otis was dropped in here from the $8,000 level.
The final event of the bumper nine-race card went the way of Mori Girl for in-
form handler Barb Heads, rider Alex Marti and owner/breeders Russell and
Lois Bennett. The $4,000 claiming contest win capped an exceptional
weekend for the Heads’ barn following the impressive win by two-year-old
debutante, Infinite Patience, on Friday evening.
The big crowd of well-dressed men and women, in splendid suits and hats,
helped push the on-track handle past the $260,000 mark. The gross handle,
meanwhile, perhaps helped by the cancellation of racing back east due to the
high temperatures there, bumped through the $920,000 mark.


Patience is her own reward in stunning debut


The first Friday evening race meeting of the 2019 Hastings season was blessed with balmy sunshine, a healthy crowd of Friday night revelers on Deighton Cup eve, and a couple of two-year-old performances of real promise.


William Decoursey’s homebred filly Infinite Patience was particularly impressive, justifying favoritism on her debut and strolling to an almost ten-length victory under the tutelage of Antonio Reyes.

Trained by Barb Heads, Infinite Patience (surely named as an acknowledgement to the single-most important attribute required to be a breeder of Thoroughbreds) looked like an experienced professional, instead of the clueless debutante she was entitled to be on her first career start.

The lovely bay didn’t break first, but her relaxed and athletic stride took her to the front almost immediately. From there on, the six-furlong race quickly became a good-paced schooling session, and possibly a dress rehearsal for even greater achievements to come.

Reyes, who is not one to grandstand even though certainly had the opportunity here, asked very little of his mount other than to keep her going forwards. The pair extended their lead decisively around the home bend and, under the minimum of urging, drew clear. There were several “wows” from the knowledgeable crowd down on the rails, and it very much looks as though Infinite Patience is a case of good things coming to those who wait.


Antonio Reyes may now be among the best-placed horsemen at Hastings to interpret the pecking order of two-year-olds, after he drove out Swift Thoroughbreds’ homebred gelding Wilson to land the boys’ leg of the two Maiden Special events.

The result, in a slower time than the fillies despite the frisky early fractions, was an altogether closer contest, although the winner was no less impressive in his own way.

Trained by Dino Condilenios, Wilson was making his third appearance and put the education to good use, taking on the Phil Hall-trained Gottcha Cowboy from the start and turning him back in the closing stages to win a sustained stretch duel by three-quarters-of-a-length. The pair put on an exciting battle all the way around the Hastings oval and, impressively, put almost seven lengths of daylight between themselves and the third-placed finisher, Finally Fantastic.
Wilson is by the BC sire Pop Artist, who is part owned by Condilenios and stands at Emerald Acres, and he continues to make an impact far larger than entitled to, given the limited numbers of mares he’s covered so far – that will surely change when the next breeding season comes around.


Indeed, Pop Artist wasn’t done for the evening. His four-year-old gelding R W Stanley closed thrillingly down the stretch to collar Slew’s Da Boss at the line by a nose for trainer Brian O’Connell and owners Nite and Day Stable and Joanne Todd.

Earlier in the evening, Pop Artist’s son Molesley had to settle for second place behind George Gilbert’s three-year-old, Ring of Kerry, in the $20,000 “never won two” allowance contest over six-and-a-half furlongs.


Trained by leading Hastings handler Phil Hall, the Kentucky-bred son of Flatter finished a long way behind the top-class Explode in last month’s Chris Loseth Stakes. However, he could not have been more impressive on Friday, dictating the pace under Amadeo Perez and drawing away to win by more than seven lengths.

Ring of Kerry was the second Hall-trained winner of the evening following Demerara’s gate-to-wire victory in the opener (a $16,000 claimer) under Enrique Gonzalez. Like Ring of Kerry, Gilbert also owns Demerara, although this time in partnership with Exclusive Stable.

Hall wasn’t done, either, and he legged-up Gonzalez again to land the fifth race of the evening, an $8,000 claiming contest over six-and-a-half furlongs, aboard G M T Baby, a three-year-old daughter of the late BC stallion, Shrug.


The nightcap, a $4,000 claimer, fell to the Harold Barroby-owned and trained nine-year-old gelding, Payton’s Best, under the stewardship of young rider, Learie Seecharan. The apprentice was standing in for sidelined Jeff Burningham, who remains in good spirits in hospital following his serious fall the previous weekend. Burningham will have been as delighted for Seecharan as anyone, because that’s the kind of selfless person he is and he has the best wishes of everyone on the Hastings’ backstretch for a speedy recovery.



Here’s Hannah: a winner worthy of the name

Monashee, by all accounts, was quite some racemare and so it’s fitting that the latest winner of the race run in her remembrance should be a name worthy of joining the roster of previous winners.


It seems fairly short odds that Here’s Hannah might eventually have a race run in her honour, but her name already fits well in the mouth when spoken of as one of the most talented fillies ever to ply her trade in East Van.

She certainly looked “all that” again on Saturday under the guidance of Richard Hamel. If anything, the all-business chestnut won the $50,000 Monashee Stakes with even more authority than in her previous run in the Strawberry Morn.

The Phil Hall-trained Good Luck To You attempted valiantly to make a race of it under Enrique Gonzalez. The pair sat behind the eventual winner as long as they dared, and then harried away at Hannah along the backstretch.

But the Strawberry Morn win had clearly added some battle hardness to Here’s Hannah, and she seemed even stronger here, quickening away from the challenge before powering down the lane to win by a convincing four lengths.

Hannah’s trainer John Morrison admitted as much in the winner’s circle: “She seems to be getting stronger,” he agreed. “She eats real good and always trains so strongly.”

Hamel’s smiling face, meanwhile, betrayed his love for Here’s Hannah after she had delivered him to a tenth victory. “We’re ten-for-ten now,” Hamel reminded the crowd afterwards, before explaining the plan was to get out in front and stay there. “I tried to make it as simple as possible,” he said.

Caps must also be doffed in the direction of the connections who took on Here’s Hannah in the Monashee Stakes. There would be no race without the participation of the other high-class runners, but it’s not easy to commit time and resources to targeting a contest you know from the outset is also likely to include such a standout filly. For the record, Good luck To You, who has now had a not-so-close-up view of Hannah’s hindquarters on her last three runs, finished second. The talented Yukon Belle was third.


Hamel enjoyed a double on the day, after another trademark display of front running aboard Hilariouslynaughty for trainer Brian O’Connell and owners Pietragall Stables and Nite and Day Stable. Hamel made almost all the running, before stealing a march into the home turn and holding off all-comers by a length.

Runners from the in-form Pat Jarvis barn are seldom without a winning chance at the moment and her afternoon began in close to the best style possible – with two wins and a second from the first three races.


Honk has been enigmatic to say the least since Elphinstone Racing Stables claimed the son of Lucky Pulpit in California last year. However, Jarvis and her team have learned as much from the defeats as from the four-year-old’s victories, of which Saturday was the second in three appearances.

Honk’s gate-to-wire, five-length win under regular work rider Romario Saunders was verging on uneventful. The pair controlled the race from the front of the field before rider asked horse to put daylight between themselves and those in hot pursuit. Honk did as requested, quickening clear on the home turn for an easy win in the six-and-a-half furlong $4,000 claimer.


Genoa Bay was also winning for the second time in three starts when landing the second race, another $4,000 claiming contest – this time over eight-and-a-half furlongs. The son of Cause To Believe was stepping up in distance for the first time and appeared to relish the more relaxed way of doing things, cantering past the stands at the head of affairs under Alex Marti on the first circuit with his ears pricked. Clearly enjoying himself, Genoa Bay looked more comfortable the further the field travelled and the length advantage at the wire seemed a shade deceptive.

In an alarming reversal of form, the Jarvis barn had to settle for second place in the next race when He’s Got Ego, who never begins his challenge from the rear of the field until he is good and ready, fell foul to a combination of average fractions and the talent of the Deirdre Bell-trained Transplant.

Yet another four-year-old who was winning for the second time in three starts (and his fourth win this season), Transplant enjoys a level of consistency that is both remarkable and a great testament to his handler.


Ridden here by Jeffery Burningham, that’s now three wins, four seconds and two third-place finishes from just 12 career starts for Transplant, and he must be providing quite a thrill for owners Gift Horse Stables.

Consistency can be as annoyingly elusive to trainers as horses, although that is not something that would appear to be an issue for Anita Bolton. Eight of the 12 runners Bolton has saddled this season have either won or been placed, and she was back in the winner’s enclosure on Saturday to greet Wahoo Bill and rider Enrique Gonzalez after their length win in a six-and-a-half furlong, $8,000 claiming contest.


A three-year-old son of the successful BC-based sire, Finality, Wahoo Bill made his seasonal debut on Saturday and was having just the second run of his life after a promising Maiden Special Weight introduction to racing last September.

Owned by Nick and Pauline Felicella, Wahoo Bill and Gonzalez won despite having to scoot over to the lead from the seven gate and then win the speed duel with Brandon’s Legacy. The winner tired noticeably in the stretch, but had enough class to see off the rapidly closing pack by two-and-a-half lengths.

Trainer Rob Maybin’s obvious belief in Doobiedoobiedoobie was rewarded in style when the Florida-bred three-year-old son of Adios Charlie, who he owns in partnership with his wife Sheena, broke his maiden at the fifth time of asking in a valuable $25,000 claiming contest.


Ridden by Denny Velazquez, Doobiedoobiedoobie was sent on from his stalking position going into the far turn and the pair never looked back, winning by a comfortable two-and-a-half lengths.

The most thrilling finish of the afternoon came in the seventh race, a $4,000 claimer for fillies who had never previously won two races. Hard Rain saw off the early dueling challenge of Backseat Rider, before gamely holding on to a rapidly diminishing lead over the fast-finishing Raine Or Shine. It was a head-bobber at the wire, with Hard Rain holding on by a nose for rider Antonio Reyes, trainer Dave Forster and owners Dr Karl Chan, Forster Stables and Cameron Hill Mortgages.


The wiener dogs, warm weather and some competitive fields helped produce a healthy on-course handle of more than $109,000, while the gross handle, at an impressive $560,570, was again ahead of last year’s comparative figure.



Veteran Hamel holds back time with stylish win

The two most valuable contests at Hastings on Sunday afternoon went the way of horses at the opposite ends of their career trajectories, in Don’t Hold Me Back and Amazonian.


Don’t Hold Me Back remains a credit to his trainer Steve Henson and owners J and G Stables, and he landed the feature event of the afternoon, a $25,000 claiming contest over a mile-and-sixteenth, in the manner of an experienced prizefighter under the equally cunning steerage of Richard Hamel.

Hamel’s ability to control a race from the front was a joy to behold on the seven-year-old son of the Giant’s Causeway stallion, Hold Me Back.

What appeared, initially, to be a duel on the lead with Antonio Reyes aboard Captain Jones was revealed to be little more than Hamel allowing his rival to feel a false sense of security. Hamel played out a little more rope with each passing furlong and, by the time the field approached the far turn, Captain Jones was a spent force. Hamel then turned his attention to seeing off each new challenge that came his way – driving Don’t Hold Me Back into a race-winning lead and fending off the stretch run of Denny Velazquez aboard Highway Boss.

Don’t Hold Me Back’s deserved win followed a second and third-place finish from just five starts this season. His career earnings are now closing in on $200,000 from 47 starts, underlining his amazing durability and enthusiasm.

The nature of a race every 20 minutes or so means that riders don’t have long to dwell upon defeat, and Velazquez waited only until the next contest before taking the second $20,000 purse of the afternoon aboard the Glen Todd-trained Amazonian.


Good riders make everything they do look unhurried, and Velazquez patiently allowed his mount to find her own rhythm along the backstretch, after initially taking the three-year-old Malibu Moon filly to the front from the gate. The breather worked a treat and the filly had enough in reserve at the end of a stretch-long drive to hold off Antonio Reyes and Solarity.

A tall, rangy filly, who was purchased by Todd’s North American Thoroughbred Horse Company at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2017, Amazonian has understandably taken a couple of races to break her maiden. However, she’s hit the board in all five of her races and is definitely a filly to follow. The runner-up and the third-placed finisher were both trained by Barb Heads and it was Cha Ching (third) in particular who caught the eye, running on from a long, long way back on what was her first appearance.

Amazonian was the second leg of a double for Velazquez, coming after he partnered Commercial Appeal to land a $4,000 claiming contest for trainer Tara Neigel.


The seven-year-old grey son of Successful Appeal was a first winner for new owners, D J Racing, and of the many future winners they will hopefully enjoy, this one seems bound to stick in the memory, coming as it did after a thrilling stretch run that saw Velazquez wear down PG Star to snatch the prize.

Hamel and Velazquez’s exploits aside, the riding plaudits on the day belonged to Enrique Gonzalez, who enjoyed a three-timer that keeps his title challenge very much alive.

All three wins came for trainer Phil Hall, who has now saddled close to twice as many winners this season as his nearest Hastings’ rival.

The first of the three winners came when Wise Market, who Hall owns with Brian Albertson, followed up on last month’s $16,000 claiming contest by landing a similar contest here by three-quarters-of-a-length after a three-wide challenge around the home turn became a four-wide drive up the home stretch.


Wise Market, the winner of last year’s $50,000 River Rock Casino Handicap and a smart juvenile the year before that, was claimed by trainer Steve Henson on behalf of Willow Creek Farms and Fabio Chiesa.

The second of the three Hall/Gonzalez winners was equally pulsating, and came when the rider drove the four-year-old filly Bear up the inside to take a mile-and-sixteenth $8,000 claiming contest by an extending neck.


Formerly owned by Swift Thoroughbreds and bought by Hall at the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale in the spring, Sunday’s victory made it three wins from four starts for the daughter of Super Saver – and a first over a longer trip that seemed to cause her few concerns.


Gonzalez booted-in the third leg of the hat-trick for trainer and jockey when taking the nightcap, another $8,000 claimer, aboard Bamboo Eleven for owner Praven Sorensen. Bamboo Eleven was winning at the first time of asking for Hall after he claimed the son of Cause To Believe last month.


In-form rider Scott Williams and equally in-form trainer Kerri Raven began Sunday as they left off on Saturday, when Become an Insider took the opener from Tricky Notis. Williams’ mount appeared beaten, running in third along the rail as the field approached the home turn. However, switching his mount out for a three-wide challenge galvanized the five-year-old California-bred and the pair ate up the ground to win by a, hard-fought, half-length.


Underrated rider J C Roque struck in the third race for trainer Milton Palma and owners Shamrock Racing Stable, taking the $4,000 claiming contest on the Ontario-bred Successful Brew. Roque, who supplements his race riding by ponying and riding work for Palma in the mornings, is a cool customer, with six of his 20 rides this season lighting up the board.

Members of the Hastings Racing Club, reinforced over the weekend by two fresh horses, were out in good number to watch club stalwart Square Dancer make his second appearance of the season. While “Dancer” ran well enough without troubling the judge, his fans helped swell the on-track handle, on what was another damp afternoon, to more than $101,000. The gross handle, at more than $700,000, continued this season’s positive trend and was significantly ahead of the equivalent fixture last year.



Consistency the key as Reyes and Williams take two apiece


Antonio Reyes continued his terrific form of late with two wins, two seconds and two thirds at Hastings on Saturday, landing two of the afternoon’s most valuable events along the way.


The pick of the bunch was Day Raider, who Reyes steered to land a $20,000 allowance contest for trainer Craig MacPherson and owners Canyon Farms.

Fresh off the back of last month’s six-and-a-half furlong “sharpener”, this return to a longer distance proved very much to the liking of the former Canadian Derby runner-up, and Reyes will probably have had tougher days in the office than the shift he was required to put in here.

Moving comfortably towards the rear of the field, horse and rider seemed almost to stifle a yawn before casually moving through the field down the backstretch. Reyes then woke his slumbering mount as they approached the far turn, quickly passed Spokane’s Gem on the outside and, doing little more than showing the stick to the son of New Year’s Day, came home under a hand ride and an untroubled three-length win.

Although a competitive event on paper, the mile-and-sixteenth, “never won three” contest turned in to a perfect confidence booster for Day Raider, who has run consistently against the very best around but had not got his head in front for almost a year.

Reyes’ first win of the afternoon came aboard Rak City in a maiden claimer contest, where the five-year-old son of Temple City ran for a $14,250 tag.


Trained by Rob Gilker, and owned by him along with his wife Vicky, Rak City is another who seemed suited by a return to a longer distance, despite going close to winning twice in Hastings sprints this season. Reyes had the gelding well placed in third for much of the journey, before joining the fray at the home turn and out-gunning Reprimand down the home stretch.

Volo Veloce ran on well to take second on his first attempt at longer, while the unlucky Aleutian Harbour overcame two separate “traffic incidents” to somehow find fourth place, despite almost coming down at the clubhouse turn under Enrique Gonzalez.


Reyes settled for the runner-up spot in the second race of the afternoon, a $16,000 claiming event restricted to three-year-old fillies, when chasing home the impressive We Are Free.

The Terry Clyde-trained daughter of Finality is now “three-for-three”, losing her maiden for $4,000 in May, stepping up to $8,000 last month and then annexing this six-and-a-half furlong contest by more than two lengths. All three wins have come under the guidance of jockey Jeff Burningham.

Both of Clyde’s fillies in the race were claimed afterwards, with We Are Free joining the powerful Phil Hall barn, while the fourth-place finisher, Marshall Swindle, will help reinforce the Hastings Racing Clubs. “Twink” Baumgartner will train the daughter of Shrug.

Scott Williams is another jockey riding at the peak of his powers right now, and he twice found the winner’s circle on Saturday.


Williams’ never-say-die attitude was very much in evidence in the first race, a $6,250 claimer. Riding Brother Rod for John Morrison, he slowly ate in to the considerable lead of long-time frontrunner Optic down the homestretch – catching the faltering leader a stride or two before the line.

The all-or-nothing style of Optic was obviously to the liking of owner/trainer Jean Lavallee, who claimed the four-year-old after the race.

The second Williams’ winner of the afternoon came on Indicative for owner/trainer Kerri Raven in the nightcap – a $12,500 claimer over six-and-a-half furlongs.

The son of Midshipman is another whose exemplary consistency is a credit to his trainer. This was already his ninth start of 2019, following a winter in warmer climes, and the three-year-old’s win was his second at Hastings this season to make it two wins and three second-place finishes.

After narrowly escaping a serious incident earlier in the afternoon, it was good to see Enrique Gonzalez back in winning action when taking the fifth race aboard Pioneer of the West for trainer Steve Bryant and owners Big Fly Stables.


Seemingly caught flat-footed and losing his place when the field quickened up heading for the far turn, Pioneer of the West rallied four wide under the urging of Gonzalez, before powering down the stretch to win the $8,000 claimer by a length-and-a-quarter from Sunset Drive.

Sanawar, who finished fifth, was reclaimed after the race by trainer Barb Heads for owners R N H Stables.

The mile-and-sixteenth contest was also notable for being the final curtain call in Kermode’s successful career. Trained by Pat Jarvis, owned by the Kermode Stable and bred by Bryan and Carol Anderson, Kermode, or “Rocky” to everyone at the barn, has hit the board in half of his 30 runs, with high points including a Jack Diamond Futurity win and a second-place finish in the CTHS Sales Stakes the same year.

Rocky has given everything he had to give in every one of those thirty runs and few will have deserved their retirement more. He takes his bow sound and in good health.


Consistency applies to trainers as well as horses, and it was gratifying to see the popular Larry Grieve leg-up Lenny Seecharan to take the third race, a $4,000 claiming contest over a mile-and-sixteenth, aboard Act Up for K & G Stables.

Grieve has forgotten more about horses than most of us will ever learn, and he must surely have been pleased to beat the pre-race favourite Flemings Beach, after he lost the grey six-year-old in the claims box last month.

A weirdly cool day, with a spit of rain in the air, saw a modest crowd bet a healthy on-track handle of just more than $90,000, while the gross handle of just a tad north of $383,000 meant both figures were again ahead of the comparative fixture 12 months ago.



Summerland sails to Supernaturel glory

Summerland, and the winning is easy. Or, at least, that’s how George Gilbert’s star filly made her processional victory in the $50,000 Supernaturel Stakes appear.


Any hope her opponents may have held that a step up in distance might somehow blunt her speed proved forlorn as, shaken up by Enrique Gonzalez when the field approached the far turn, the daughter of the late Washington Stallion He’s Tops quickly put daylight between herself and her pursuers.

Gonzalez certainly made the most of the easy lead he was gifted from the outset of the valuable mile-and-sixteenth contest. He controlled the pace adroitly from the head of affairs, while the runners behind quickly accepted their collective fate was to fight for the minor places.

Following the Phil Hall-trained filly’s near six-length coronation, owner and co-breeder Gilbert explained to the crowd that the longer trip wasn’t among the few concerns he had going into the race.

“I was more worried about the weight she had to carry more than the distance,” he admitted. “But she’s a truly amazing filly.”

Summerland’s burden was 125lbs, a full ten pounds more than any rival. But, while weight they say can stop a freight train, it is going to take a little more to level the playing field for those brave enough to take her on. Summerland’s superiority was summed up by the starting odds of both minor-place finishers Sunburst (19-1) and Warrior’s Promise (16-1), both of whom had seemed mortal locks to hit the board beforehand.

In just four starts, the Barb Heads-trained Sunburst has quickly developed into a classy filly worthy of her place in this rarefied company, while the Hastings Racing Club’s maiden queen, Warrior’s Promise, continues to be a credit to her trainer, Patty Leaney. Both ran on with gusto and were never closer than at the wire. How much the slow early fractions hindered their chances remains to be seen although, on this form, both are capable of winning a big prize at some point.

The eight-race card at Hastings was book-ended by two valuable claiming events. The opener, a $50,000 claiming contest with a $26,000 purse, went the way of Hansen’s Victory for the powerful Glen Todd barn.


It’s been a relatively quiet couple of weeks for the North American Thoroughbred Horse Company’s red and white checkerboard silks (which Todd has put down simply to the vagaries of the conditions book), but Hansen’s Victory certainly held up his end, winning two of his three races this season.

Calmly and confidently partnered by Todd’s retained rider Denny Velazquez, Hansen’s Victory stalked the longtime leader Strate Remark snugly in second place, before driving forward from the top of the homestretch to hold off Coulterberry by a length.

The $50,000 didn’t deter a claim, with Peter Redekop’s recent George Royal winner Awhitesportscoat joining new owner/trainer Cindy Krasner after finishing fifth.


Hansen’s Victory was the first of a hat-trick of wins for trainer and jockey. They took the fourth, a $4,000 claiming contest, with Khaiky’s Command, before losing the four-year-old to trainer Julie Wicks and owner Frank Iaci at the claims box.


Then, in the very next race, the NATHC team’s Tactful made a mockery of his 3-1 starting odds by winning in the style (and time) of a horse capable of better than this $4,000 claimer. Todd’s retained confidence in his homebred son of Texas Wildcatter proved well placed; the three-year-old’s six-length saunter confirmed his previous three efforts to be little more than prologue.

The second bookend of valuable claimers went the way of the Craig MacPherson-trained Day Flyer in the final event of a very well attended Canada Day meet.


Taking on six fellow $25,000 claimers for a $20,000 purse, the son of successful young stallion New Year’s Day shot out of the chasing pack at the final turn and, under hard-driving from Amadeo Perez, quickly caught the self-harming duel ahead of him between Ojo Del Mar and odds-on favourite, Moro Texas.

Once at the scene of the crime, the three year-old swept past to an emphatic three-and-a-half length win for owners Canyon Farms, Kerry Leong and M Scharples.

Riding honours were even on the day for the Seecharan twins. Lenny took the second race, a $4,000 fillies and mares claimer, aboard Ourevelady for owners Reba Racing Stables and Larry Potozny, and in-form trainer Terry Clyde.

Learie, meanwhile, struck in the penultimate contest of the afternoon when partnering Durdle Door to a gate-to-wire win for owners J T Racing, Wood N Cat Stables and Lumpy’s Lowbed Racing.


Seecharan, who was in the process of providing a welcome first winner of the season to trainer Ryan Deyotte, sent his mount on from the b of bang, forging a significant lead on the back of some fast fractions and managing to build up enough momentum to hold off the rapidly-closing challengers behind. Durdle Door, understandably, weakened close to home but the plan worked perfectly and the wire came in time.


Exorbitant made quite an impression when making all on her seasonal debut. However, after tying to set an injudiciously quick pace the next time out, only to falter and finish eighth, White House Stables’ homebred was not allowed to run quite as freely by regular partner Leo Espinoza in the third race of the afternoon, another competitive $4,000 claiming contest. The tactic worked and the pair held a clear lead by just under a length at the line for trainer “Twink” Baumgartner.

Blue skies, good-sized fields, a collection of the Province’s very best three-year-olds and some competitive claiming contests helped produce a strong handle that broke the $1 million mark. A bumper crowd, on hand to celebrate Canada Day, boosted the on-track handle to more than $172,000. Both figures were significantly up on 2018.

Oh, and there was cake.



Explode lights up the start of Canada Day weekend

Hastings round-up by Nigel Reid

Sometimes the name just fits. Take Canmor Farms’ Explode, for instance. The three-year-old son of Trappe Shot, his powder kept dry by rider Amadeo Perez for much of his first run “long” this season, eventually went off like a rocket once his fuse was lit in the $50,000 Chris Loseth Handicap Stakes.


The race was won in several strides running into and around the far turn, as the striking chestnut extended like one of those powerful rockets that streak across the sky above Vancouver’s English Bay during the annual summer fireworks competition.

The pair was travelling so strongly when passing the line a full six lengths clear of the nearest challenger (Whiskey Bound) that they completed almost three-quarters of a circuit galloping out, confirming trainer Mark Cloutier’s post-race thought that his charge “could run all day”.

The weeks and months ahead will no doubt tell us just how good Explode’s rivals were today. However, the Niarchos-bred, who was purchased at Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale in 2016 for a paltry USD 2,500, could not have been more impressive, stamping his authority on the male three-year-old division and laying down a significant marker for another divisional title to go with last season’s juvenile honours.

Explode was a second winner on the day for leading rider Perez, coming after he had punched home Another Guinness in a $4,000 claiming contest for trainer Phil Hall and his fellow owners Brian Albertson, Praven Sorensen and Dan Lee.


Another Guinness was Hall’s sole winner at Hastings on Sunday, although ample consolation came on the east side of the Rockies when he saddled Good Luck To You to land the $75,000 Shirley Vargo Handicap at Century Mile for owner George Gilbert. Rigo Sarmiento took the ride.

Despite Perez’s double, riding honours very much went the way of the indefatigable veteran, Richard Hamel, who also enjoyed a rocket-like blast-off to the afternoon aboard the speedy Bluegrass Angus.


Trained and owned by Craig MacPherson, Bluegrass Angus was aiming to repeat last month’s searing gate-to-wire win in a lower $6,250 event. Stepped up here to run for $12,500, the six-and-a-half furlong contest should, in theory, have been a little tougher but, this time ridden with a little more patience behind some strong early fractions, Hamel waited until the beginning of the far turn before letting the former BC Derby runner-up loose. The method might have been different, but the result was the same: an under wraps win, this time by four-and-a-half lengths.


Hamel was seen at his consummate best aboard Mayfair Lady in the second race of the afternoon, a $16,500 claimer over six-and-a-half furlongs.

Allowing the Colonel John mare to find her own stride in an unhurried fashion from the often-complicated inside gate, Hamel happily stalked his way around the tight bullring before getting down to work.

Encouraging Mayfair Lady to collar the leaders while drifting out from the rail for an outside run around the far turn, Hamel urged, got a response and then urged some more. The work was hard and the effort unremitting, but the mare kept finding a little more for each request and, at the line, the pair held their first and only important lead of the race. Zetamarie was a valiant second.

Trained by Rob Anderson and owned by Horse’n Around Racing Stables, Mayfair Lady has been a consistent performer, despite not winning since September 2017. Rider and horse must know each other fairly well by now and, while she appears to need things to go her own way, the five-year-old proved well up to the effort required to win.


Hard-working Hamel sealed the hat-trick aboard the popular European in the fifth race, a $16,000 claimer over six-and-a-half furlongs. Claimed back by trainer Dino Condilenios for owners Bob Leffler, Bryan Killins and Gord McCormick after losing the horse to trainer Cindy Krasner earlier in the season, the tough four-year-old son of Cause To Believe put on a typically tenacious display to see off his challengers following a three-way stretch battle. European was claimed again by Krasner following the race.

The first six-furlong two-year-old race of the season is always a eagerly anticipated event and, with four of the eight juveniles lined up for Sunday‘s $25,000 Maiden Special Weight representing the all-conquering Phil Hall barn, it seemed only a matter of trying to work out which of his runners was the most forward.


Racing folk know things are seldom as straightforward as that, however, and so it proved as the Christine Ammann-trained Dougie Dougie (named for the late Doug Clyde) overcame a moderate break from the gate to sweep past the field on the turn for home and a comfortable victory under Alex Marti.

Bred and owned by Todd Mountain Thoroughbreds, the son of Afleet Alex made a mockery of his inexperience, winning with plenty in hand. “I’d imagined it just like that,” an understandably delighted Ammann explained afterwards with a grin.


The nightcap sent race fans home from the first day of Hastings’ two-day Canada Day Weekend meet with a smile on their faces after a thrilling head-bobber that went the way of the Pat Jarvis-trained Our Bonita Rose. Stalking the quick early pace under Antonio Reyes, the six-year-old Storm Victory mare, who is owned and bred by Jarvis in partnership with Blue Willow Dairy, never appeared to be travelling particularly sweetly for much of the six-and-a-half furlong $4,000 claiming contest but, kidded and cajoled by Reyes, the pair found a way to get it done where it mattered to beat Union Obsession by a neck.

Gorgeous weather and a crowd in holiday mood helped to continue the positive news with regard to betting handle. The on-track handle, a nudge more than $112,000, held up well on last year while the overall handle of more than $840,000 was significantly ahead of the comparative 2018 figure.

Racing resumes today on Canada Day with lots more sunshine forecast and eight races headlined by the $50,000 Supernaturel Stakes. The first race starts at 1:50pm with the feature event, which stars Summerland and five more of the very best three-year-old fillies in British Columbia, scheduled for 4.20pm.



Leading riders share the spoils

Hastings round-up by Nigel Reid

It’s turning into quite the tussle for leading jockey honours at Hastings this season. Amadeo Perez and Enrique Gonzalez, who are swapping positions seemingly on a race-by-race basis, both traded winning blows again on Sunday, as the eight races were shared democratically between eight different riders.

As if stung by a rare blank day on Saturday, Perez struck immediately on Sunday, landing the opener, a $4,000 “never won three” waiver-claiming contest, aboard Cameron Hill Mortgages’ Pawnee Girl for trainer David Forster (the first of two wins on the day for the handler).

Pawnee Girl was making her seasonal debut but belied any ring rust here, taking command early on and never really looking as though she would be found wanting. Perez saw off a momentarily dangerous-looking challenge from Yellow Bonnet, driving the four-year-old Fort Larned filly to a two-length victory.

Gonzalez re-annexed top spot in the standings (by money won) when landing the most valuable event of the afternoon, a $25,000 two-year-old maiden special weight, on Catchacougar for Yellow Bonnet’s trainer Phil Hall and owner George Gilbert.

A filly from the final crop of the late sire Proud Citizen, Catchacougar looked a likely sort in the paddock beforehand and was quickly driven into a lead from the gate – from where she dominated the three-and-a-half furlong speed test.

Bred in Oklahoma, Catchacougar was a $10,000 yearling purchase by Gilbert at the 2018 Keeneland January Horses of All Age sale and, after Sunday, is already looking like a shrewd purchase.

Antonio Reyes is currently sat in third place in the standings, and he kept himself in contention by remaining patient aboard Santa Fe Trail. Waiting on the tail of some quick early fractions in the day’s fifth race, Reyes sent his mount in hot pursuit down the back and collared the leader Flemings Beach in the home stretch to win, going away, for the Forster Stable.


Santa Fe Trail was having his first go at eight-and-a-half furlongs this season after three races over shorter, and the win was a first for the six-year-old Skimming gelding since he struck over the same trip last October.

Reyes had to settle for second place in the seventh when, excruciatingly, he failed by the narrowest of margins to catch Code of Arms on the idiosyncratic He’s Got Ego.

He’s Got Ego strolls along at the rear of his races and will not attempt to chase down his rivals until he’s good and ready. Here, he gave the Patty Leaney-owned-and-trained longshot Code of Arms a vast head-start, before mowing down the field and just failing to catch Jeff Burningham’s mount at the line.

Stepping up in distance for the first time this season clearly agreed with Leaney’s five-year-old son of To Honour and Serve (who now stands in Korea) and, despite the narrowness of the margin, he was a worthy winner.

Bettors will have walked away from this heat shaking their collective heads at the unfairness of it all. The winner paid $43.70; He’s Got Ego returned $11.10 for the place while the third, Mustachio, paid $11.50 for the show. The Exacta would have netted you $498.80 for a $2 stake, while the Triactor paid a massive $4,094 for a two-buck ticket.

Leading apprentice rider Lenny Seecharan increased his tally for the year, not to mention the lead over his twin brother Learie in what is presumably an ongoing private title race that has lasted since the day they were born, when taking the sixth race, a $4,000 waiver maiden claimer, aboard the John Snow-trained Bombay.

Owned by L and S Farms, Bombay, a five-year-old daughter of Second in Command, was breaking her maiden at the 17th time of asking, which is a fine testament to both her soundness and the stoic patience of her connections.

Bred on Vancouver Island by White House Stables, Bombay was the second winner on the day from their mare, Serengeti Sunrise. The winner’s full-brother Desi took the second race for this year’s Hastings’ guest star, Denny Velazquez.

Velazquez, riding at Hastings as retained rider to Glen Todd’s powerful North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, currently sits fourth on the jockeys’ table and, not to be outdone by his rivals, partnered Desi to a convincing six-length victory in the $4,000 “never won two” claimer for owner/trainer Demi Topouzis.

The four-year-old was trained for most of last season by Deirdre Bell, and she saddled the second horse home here, Cruise Dancer, before then claiming the fifth-place finisher, Times R Achangin, from David Forster.


Trainers accept claims as part of the game, although it must sometimes be frustrating. In-form trainer Steve Henson, for instance, saddled Willow Creek Farms and Fabio Chiesa’s consistent sprinter Metal Magic to take his second race of the season for rider Richard Hamel, only to lose the six-year-old afterwards in the claim box – this time to Patty Leaney who, herself, saw her Bamboo Eleven claimed the previous day.

And so it goes around. Flemings Beach, runner-up to Santa Fe Trail, was claimed by Joan Joblonowski for new owners from Larry Grieve, while Honky Tonk Woman was claimed out of Anita Bolton’s barn by Keith Pedersen following the nightcap won by Amorcito.

Trained by Erick Gutierrez, who lost Hug via the claim box on Saturday, Amorcito just got the better of Speedy Miss in a good old-fashioned ding-dong of a race to bring down the curtain on another fascinating afternoon at the races.

The corgi dogs were racing again, and they brought with them another large crowd that helped to generate the second healthy handle of the weekend. The owners of our furry friends helped generate almost $100,000 on site, while the gross handle of close to $690,000 was well ahead of the comparative day last year.



Action aplenty on dog day afternoon

Hastings round-up by Nigel Reid

The Queen may have been at Royal Ascot all week, but the corgis were on view at Hastings on Saturday for the first day of the popular annual weekend devoted to racing the diminutive breed of dogs.


While the fastest hound on show will not be decided until Sunday, “Top Dog” honours in the horse department on Saturday went the way of the impressive Free Speech in the afternoon’s second race, a $20,000 maiden optional claimer.

Trained by Steve Bryant and ridden with typical confidence by Richard Hamel, the three-year-old colt was running for just the second time at Hastings after previously plying his trade at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

Bred and previously owned by Gary and Mary West of Game Winner, West Coast and Maximum Security fame, the son of Street Sense has adjusted remarkably quickly to life at Hastings; running second behind Proud and Loud on his track debut for new owners, Big Fly Stables, and he was a warm order in the betting market to lose his maiden tag.

Hamel had few concerns from the moment he took up a position just behind the leaders going into the first turn. From there, the 1-5 shot never gave his backers a moment’s anxiety, taking control of the six-and-a-half furlong contest at the far turn, before drawing clear under a hand ride to win by more than three lengths.

The formality of his maiden now dealt with, and if the impression he left race watchers is accurate, Free Speech may now move through his conditions in fairly rapid style.


There were several maiden contests of varying value on a competitive card of seven races and, like Free Speech, Jack’s Reign was another winning on his second Hastings appearance of the season, after returning north of the border from Santa Anita earlier in the year with his trainer, breeder and part owner, Rob Gilker.

Taking on seven rivals in the six-and-a-half furlong $16,000 claimer and ridden in robust fashion by Antonio Reyes, Jack’s Reign was following up on a third-place finish in May and two unplaced efforts at the Great Race Place earlier in the season. The gelded son of Cyclotron was driven into the final bend and, after digging in, quickly put a couple of decisive lengths of daylight between himself and the eventual runner-up, Little Groot.

Reyes completed a double on the day in another maiden contest when taking the nightcap aboard Buck for trainer Craig MacPherson and owner Edwin Claggett. Buck, who was bought out of the CTHS Horses of Racing Age Sale in the spring, was ticking off his maiden at the ninth time of asking but, as the corgis (Korgis) know, everybody’s got to learn sometime and it was good to see the son of Super Saver finally pass the wire first.

Jockey Jeff Burningham, who is enjoying a productive first part of the season, was another with a double on the day. The Hastings stalwart was seen to particularly good effect in the opener, an $8,000 claimer, when driving along the rail to slip through as the field turned for home, before drawing off to win impressively by almost four lengths.

Trained by the in-form Terry Clyde, We Are Free, who the trainer also owns in partnership with Foster Armstrong and bred together with Mike Anderson, was having just her second run after breaking her maiden at the first time of asking back in May.

Burningham’s second winner of the day came aboard Trupon Online in yet another maiden contest, this one an $8,000 claimer over a mile-and-sixteenth. The win was a first of the season for the popular trainer Rob Maybin after what must have been a frustrating start to the year. Rob, who part owns the son of Line of David with his wife Sheena, has been hitting the board regularly but with that all-important winner tantalizingly out of reach.


The most visually-impressive performance of the day was undoubtedly The All Button who, in close company with Ezekiel, put on some healthy early fractions under Enrique Gonzales before taking total command at the home turn to saunter home by 14-lengths for leading trainer Phil Hall and owner Peter Redekop.

Incidentally, it was a good day for The All Button’s sire, Into Mischief, as his three-year-old son Owendale won the G3 Ohio Derby at Thistledown.

The All Button was claimed after the mile-and-sixteenth $16,000 claiming contest by trainer Stephen Byrne for owner Martin Miller. It was a relatively quiet day at the claim box. Phil Hall claimed Bamboo Eleven from the Patty Leaney barn for new owner Praven Sorensen following the fifth race while, in the seventh, fourth-placed Hug left Erick Gutierrez to join new owner/trainer James Strachan.


Promising young rider J C Roque was overdue a first winner of the season and he struck in the penultimate contest of the afternoon, a $4,000 claiming contest over eight-and-a-half furlongs, leading his rivals a merry dance to make every yard of the running aboard Veloso Raptor for owner Tamara Baker and trainer Milton Palma.

Another afternoon of good-sized fields saw the track and gross handles hold up well with almost $100,000 bet on-site and the gross handle coming in at more than $520,000.

The corgis return on Sunday with another day of sun and cloud forecast and eight competitive races again scheduled to get underway at 1:50pm.




Hastings round-up by Nigel Reid

Good things come in threes for father figure Redekop

It seemed apt that, on a warm and sunny Father’s Day attended by a bumper Hastings crowd, the big race of the afternoon should go to man who is something of a paternal figure within the local racing scene.

Peter Redekop has three daughters of his own, but he is also a regular and major benefactor to the sport he loves and few will begrudge him an afternoon that saw his distinctive silks win three races, including the $50,000 John Longden 6000 Handicap Stakes with Apalachee Bay.

Redekop shared his afternoon in the sun with trainer Phil Hall, whose own daughter Sarah serves as dad’s assistant trainer, so it was a family affair all round.


Like his owner, Apalachee Bay, a four-year-old son of Malibu Moon, gives to the sport with great enthusiasm, remarkable consistency and no little talent.

Starting as favourite of the six-runner eight-and-a-half furlong Black Type event, the colt’s path to victory was fairly straight forward for Amadeo Perez – the pair striking out for home at the final bend and never really looking bothered, coming home two lengths ahead of stablemate Calgary Caper to give Hall the big-race exacta.

Hall’s team have been in magnificent early-season form, continuing from where he left off last season, and the foundation for a big afternoon ahead was laid earlier on when Bad and Bougie came swinging through on the final bend under Perez to land a $4,000 claiming contest by a driven-out length.


The third leg of the hat trick came in the nightcap, when the team sealed a memorable afternoon’s work by taking the $25,000 claimer with last season’s S.W. Randall Stakes winner, Absolutely Stylish.


Redekop’s fluorescent pink silks were carried on this occasion by Enrique Gonzales, and he guided the five-year-old Uncle Mo gelding to victory with typical panache, punching out to the front along the rail and making every yard of the mile-and-sixteenth trip for a convincing length-and-a-half win.

Like Redekop, the names of Heads and Bennett are equally and inextricably linked with the history of Hastings and they were also in multi-winning form on Sunday. The winners have been marginally slower to arrive than last season for Barb Heads’ barn, although the team has certainly been knocking on the door regularly enough.


The Bennett’s homebred Jersey Town filly Mori Girl made it winner number two of the season for Heads when she eviscerated her seven rivals to take a ‘never won three’ $4,000 claimer by eight-and-a-half lengths under business class passenger, Antonio Reyes.


The second half of the double came in the altogether more difficult $20,000 allowance event when Sunburst, another Bennett’s’ homebred, followed up on her very promising recent maiden win to cut down some fairly tall poppies. Again settled off the pace early, she stalked the leaders before striking for home three wide under Scott Williams to win by just over a length from the useful Dat Day.

The daughter of Sungold, who was also trained by Heads, has been running on powerfully in all three of her races and she looks like she might be some force if asked to go long. Heads also trained the winner’s mum, Tierra Del Feugo (also a Bennett homebred), to win the Hong Kong Jockey Club Handicap over a mile-and-sixteenth, so she will have a better idea than most of us as to the likelihood of that happening.

Mori Girl’s passenger Antonio Reyes required a few more items from his substantial toolbox in the day’s opener when getting Snappy Ginger home by a neck in the $16,000 claiming contest for in-form handler, Pat Jarvis.


Snappy Ginger, who had finished ahead of Mori Girl earlier in the season, is another who has been staying on well in her races, and she was winning first time off the claim for Jarvis – whose father Albert was another trainer synonymous with the history of Hastings. The three-year-old Stephanotis filly was formerly handled by the recently passed Bill McLaren, and her win here was a testament to his considerable skill as a trainer.


Jarvis and Reyes had to settle for second place later in the afternoon when Saturna went down by a couple of lengths to the Steve Henson-trained Stratacumulus in the $4,000 maiden waiver claimer.

The contest turned into a relatively rough six-and-a-half furlongs of Hastings’ real estate that required a stewards’ enquiry, two objections and several minutes to sort out. In truth, while the second and third were definitely inconvenienced by the inexperienced winner, they were at no stage going to beat the daughter of Finality. No harm, no foul, as they say.

In addition to his double for Redekop and Hall, leading rider Amadeo Perez added a third to his tally for the season when partnering The Chances R to win a “never won three” $16,000 claimer for trainer Mel Snow – another father entwined with the history of Hastings – and co-owner Conrad Rozenek.


After hitting the front, The Chances R was headed by European down the stretch but fought back valiantly to hold on by a half-length. European was reclaimed by trainer Dino Condilenios after the race, while the fourth-placed finisher Sword Fighter joined the Keith Pedersen barn from Phil Hall.

A magnificent crowd of racegoers, intent on enjoying Father’s Day in the sunshine, helped push the on-track handle to more than $176,000, well ahead of last year’s fixture. The overall handle, meanwhile, touched close to $767,000, which is nearly $200,000 more than 12 months ago.