Vancouver, B.C. (Sept. 7/19) – It was shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday when track announcer Dan Jukich warned the crowd at Hastings Racecourse of a “spoiler alert” and proceeded to share the news that 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu had just defeated Serena Williams to capture the U.S. Open tennis championship.
It would be the first of many ear-piercing cheers throughout the afternoon with the loudest erupting after hometown hero Mario Gutierrez rode Five Star General to victory in the 74th running of the Grade 3, $250,000 BC Derby.
The margin of victory will go down in history as a nose over Canadian Derby champion Explode but in reality, it was more like a nostril. The photo finish declared Five Star General the winner after an epic duel to the wire that was, in a word, breathtaking.
Five Star General paid $5.90, $3.30, $2.40, posting a final time of 1:52.43 over the 1 1/8-mile distance.
Both Gutierrez and owner/trainer Glen Todd were visibly touched as Five Star General was fitted with the traditional corsage of 350 of red roses.
“This means a lot to me,” Gutierrez said during an interview with outrider Bailey Heggie on the victory gallop to the winner’s circle. “I have been so lucky in life. I will never forget where I came from. Glen got me started in Vancouver and this is my home.”
Following an illustrious career at Hastings where he’d never won a BC Derby, Mario graduated to racing’s California circuit and rode two Kentucky Derby winners: I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016.
Todd was on an emotional roller-coaster throughout the afternoon. Less than an hour earlier he was celebrating a $100,000 BC Oaks victory with veteran rider Richard Hamel on 11-l longshot Amazonian. Final time over 1 1/8 miles was 1:53.10 with Amazonian playing $24.10, $9.60, $6.80.
Todd then capped things off with a $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate win with He’s the Reason, again with Hamel in the irons. He’s the Reason paid $5.30, $3.60, $2.80 in a final time of 1:51.78.
“This has been a great day for me and my family and all of the hard-working people who work on our team behind the scenes,” Todd said. “It’s been the best day for me personally in 50 years in the racing business.”
Hamel came close to winning three of the four stakes on the 10-race card when 2-5 favourite Here’s Hannah, carrying 130 pounds, was caught at the wire by 8-1 longshot Bear following a determined ride by Sahin Civaci in the $50,000 Delta Colleen. It was the first loss at Hastings in 12 starts for Here’s Hannah.
Bear, trained by Phil Hall and ridden by Civaci – who won three races on the day – paid a handsome $19.40, $4.60, $3.10 in a final time of 1:52.74. Hall has increased his leading trainer’s total to 46.
Hamel’s three wins Saturday left him two shy of leading jockey Enrique Gonzalez, who’s victory on Ezekiel earlier in the day gave him 42 on the season with 14 racing dates remaining on the Hastings schedule,
Live thoroughbred racing resumes next Saturday and Sunday with 1:50 p.m. starts.
Vancouver, B.C. (September 5/19) – There are so many intriguing storylines behind Saturday’s 74th running of the BC Derby and 56th edition of the BC Oaks at Hastings Racecourse, it is a challenge to know where to begin.
An ideal start might be Peter Redekop, the 84-year-old owner/breeder who’s been a major part of the local thoroughbred scene for more than five decades. This past spring Mr. Redekop – a member of the BC Racing Hall of Fame – made an unexpected announcement that he would personally be increasing the guaranteed purse for Saturday’s Grade 3 BC Derby to $250,000 from $150,000 by simply saying: “We’ve got to get more people in the racing industry to notice us.
Redekop obviously has a soft spot for the BC Derby, considering he remains the only owner to have captured the prestigious race on four occasions, including three in a row during an outstanding run from 2012 with Second City trained by Craig MacPherson and ridden by Richard Hamel; 2013 with Title Contender trained by Anita Bolton, ridden by Rico Walcott; 2014 with Alert Bay and the same trainer/jockey combination of Bolton and Walcott.
Redekop’s first Derby win was in 1994 with Squire Jones, trained by Lance Geisbrecht and ridden by Buddy Winnett, Jr.
Team Redekop, with a lineup that includes Peter’s nephew James Redekop, racing manager Dr. Bryan Anderson and Hastings leading trainer Phil Hall, will be gunning for a fifth BC Derby victory Saturday sending Final Jeopardy (Enrique Gonzalez) to the starting gate as one of the top three morning line favourites at 3-to-1. Ole Nielsen’s Canadian Derby winner Explode (Amadeo Perez) is listed at 2-to-1 with Glen Todd’s Five Star General (Mario Gutierrez) at 5-to-2 among an impressive starting field of nine.
Final Jeopardy was the 6-to-5 Canadian Derby favourite at Century Mile in Edmonton on August 18 but settled for third as Explode and Chicago invader Journeyman finished in what was described as “a bumper-car stretch drive”.
Journeyman, who is not running in the BC Derby, crossed the wire on top by a neck in the $250,000 Canadian Derby but was disqualified by the stewards for interference. That resulted in the Vancouver connection of Nielsen, trainer Mark Cloutier and jockey Amadeo Perez celebrating in the winner’s circle.
The $100,000 BC Oaks for three-year-old fillies also has a competitive field of nine with Im Evin Im Leavin – winner of the August 17 Century Casino Oaks at Century Mile – among the morning line favourites at 7-to-2, She’s trained by Greg Tracy and ridden by veteran Edmonton jockey Rico Walcott.
The $50,000 stakes include Here’s Hannah – undefeated in 11 starts at Hastings – the heavy favourite in the Delta Colleen for fillies and mares in the three-year-olds and upward division. Here’s Hannah is trained by John Morrison with regular rider Richard Hamel trying to extend her home winning streak to 12.
Hamel also gets the call aboard He’s the Reason for trainer Glen Todd in the S.W. Randall Plate for three-year-olds and upward.
The BC Derby/Oaks Day 10-race card begins at 12:50 p.m., an hour earlier than the normal weekend start at Hastings Racecourse.