NATHC’S, Highway Boss was the first horse on the track on Tuesday Morning as Hastings Racecourse opened for spring training
A FRESH START FOR HASTINGS RACECOURSE
BEGINS WITH OPENING DAY ON APRIL 26
Lease Extension Fuels Horsemen’s Enthusiasm
Vancouver, BC (January 30, 2020) – The word ‘new’ is a key element to the official announcement of the 2020 live racing season that launches on Sunday afternoon April 26 at Hastings Racecourse.
For starters, there is a new five-year lease extension with a five-year option in place for Hastings Racecourse with the City of Vancouver, ensuring the sustainability of the industry over the next five years and beyond.
“It is certainly a giant step in the right direction,” said David Milburn, President of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA). “We can only continue to grow from here.”
That growing stage will involve recently-appointed Regional Director, BC Racing Darren MacDonald working in concert with new Hastings Racecourse General Manager Michael Zerebeski, responsible for overall operations at both the racecourse and casino.
MacDonald, who was GM at Hastings Racecourse the past six years, will focus on improving wagering, field sizes and other key elements at both Hastings Racecourse and Fraser Downs towards the overall advancement of the racing product in British Columbia.
His most recent challenge has involved monitoring the installation of a new inner rail at Hastings Racecourse by the U.S. patented Rider Protection System.
“We are very pleased that everything has lined up and we were able to get the new rail installed for the 2020 season,” MacDonald said. “This particular rail has been installed at most major race tracks in North America and is proven to provide a great deal of safety for both riders and horses. A lot of people have worked very hard to make a tight deadline become a reality at Hastings.”
Hastings Racecourse opens for stall set-up on February 7 with the move-in of horses on February 9 and the start of training February 11.
With the first of 51 race dates set for April 26 at 1:50 p.m., Zerebeski is planning to heighten the level of entertainment throughout the season by adding more events to complement the thrill of thoroughbred racing.
“We will be reaching out to racing fans of all ages with exciting new events to enhance our mandate of continuing to be recognized as a popular Vancouver entertainment destination,” he says. “Customer satisfaction will be top of mind with each and every visit to our facility throughout the coming season.”
Zerebeski joined the Hastings Racecourse team as Manager, Human Resources in September, 2018 after holding key management positions at the Westin Grand Vancouver and Hotel Squamish/Lanarkshire Group.
The 2020 live racing calendar primarily features Saturday and Sunday afternoon cards from April 26 through October 18 along with statutory holidays including Victoria Day on Monday, April 18, Canada Day on Wednesday, July 1, and BC Day on Monday, August 3. The popular Friday Night Live cards begin on July 24 and run through September 4 – seven in number.
The highlight of the Hastings Racecourse calendar continues to be the BC Cup on Monday, August 3 and the BC Derby & BC Oaks on Saturday, September 12.
Special events on racing days will once again include the Bulldog Races (May 23-24), Corgi Races (June 27-28) and Wiener Dog Races (July 11-12). Another ‘must do’ at Hastings will be the celebration of the 12th annual Deighton Cup on Saturday, July 18, heralded by social media entertainment journalists as “Vancouver’s most stylish event of the summer when a good old-fashion day at the races includes fine food, craft cocktails and live entertainment.”
The 2020 Live Racing Calendar including the special events lineup is attached for your reference.
Vancouver, BC (Dec. 11/19) – Vancouver’s thoroughbred racing community has lost two popular Hastings Racecourse personalities within the last week with the passing of Kathy O’Connell and Sohen Gill.
Kathy was predeceased by her husband Sonny O’Connell, a member of the BC Horse Racing Hall of Fame in the trainers’ category. The friendships Kathy established covered all levels at the track. In recent years, following her retirement from greeting fans at the Guest Services counter, there would be loud and loving cheers each time she arrived in the winner’s circle to join son Brian, a dedicated trainer who continues to carry on the O’Connell racing tradition.
Kathy passed away peacefully on December 4 after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of 80.
Prayers will be offered Thursday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Kearney Burnaby Chapel and a Funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday, December 13 at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at 10 a.m.
Sohen Gill, a staunch supporter of the racing industry for as long as anyone can remember, passed at age 78 on December 6 after a legendary lacrosse career in British Columbia as a player, coach, manager, Western Lacrosse Association commissioner and B.C. Lacrosse Association president.
Gill was named winner of the Tom Gordon ‘Mr. Lacrosse’ Award three times and was inducted into the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2009 he was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in the Builder category, the same year as Hastings jockey Chris Loseth and long-time racing journalist Archie McDonald.
Jason Beck, Curator of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, tweeted the following: “Sohen and I shared a unique bond. I interviewed him prior to his 2009 induction after he had come directly from a doctor’s appointment where he was told his kidneys were failing and he had just months to live unless he received a transplant. He discussed hkis life and career with an openness that was startling.
“And the end of our talk, we parted not really knowing what would happen next. Thankfully, he received a transplant from his son Chris and those precious months turned into another decade.”
Chris today is head coach of the Vancouver Warriors following his own illustrious career in lacrosse.
There will be a Celebration of Life for Sohen Gill on Wednesday, December 18 at the Burnaby Firefighters Hall at 1 p.m.
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