HorseRacing Central March 27, 2009
PACE PICKING UP AT HASTINGS
The busy little community known as the backstretch at Hastings Racecourse comes alive each morning at the crack of dawn with a daily increase of workouts. “Things are getting serious,” says Director of Racing Paul Ryneveld. “The track is in good shape and the horsemen are taking advantage of it. We’re getting close to 100 workouts on a weekday and that’s pretty significant.”
With opening weekend (April 18-19) at Hastings Racecourse just three weeks away, every stall is either filled or called for as owners, trainers and jockeys join in the countdown to the start of the 2009 thoroughbred season. Last year’s top jockeys – Mario Gutierrez, Dave Wilson, Frank Fuentes, Pedro Alvarado and Chad Hoverson – have all checked in, as well as ‘media darling’ and top apprentice last year, Stephanie Fedora. Local rider Natasha Sihota, who had four wins in only 11 starts last year, has also returned to provide Hastings with two talented females in the irons.
B.C. BRED WINS AT SANTA ANITA
Gold Star Status captured his third victory on the tough southern California circuit in a first level allowance race last weekend. The son of Incitatus is locally owned by Anita Dawson and trained by Santa Anita conditioner Peter Eurton.
WHAT’S ON TAP
The excitement gets started early this weekend with the $5 million Duty Free (8:55 a.m.). It’s the first of three simulcast races from Nad Al Sheba in Dubai. The Duty Free is followed by the $5 million Sheema Classic (9:40 a.m.) and the $6 million Dubai World Cup (10:30 a.m.) with Albertus Maximus and Aslatic Boy listed as co-favourites.
At Santa Anita on Saturday there are two stakes on the card, the first being for 3-year-old sprinters in the San Miguel Stakes (2:03 p.m.) then the marathoners compete in the $100,000 Tokyo City Cup (4:07 p.m. over a mile and a half on the Pro-Ride main track. As usual, Mike Mitchell fills the entry box in these marathon races and will saddle three of the seven starters: Big Booster, Dynamalt and Fire Wood.
The race with the most importance in the U.S. this weekend is Saturday’s $750,000 Florida Derby (2:44 p.m.) at Gulfstream Park. The headliner is the Jimmy Jerkens’ trainee Quality Road (John Velazquez) who comes off an impressive victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Also on the program Saturday is the seven furlong $150,000 Swale Stakes (2:11 p.m.) and the $100,000 Appleton (3:15 p.m.) for older horses at seven and a half furlongs on the grass.
SPORT OF KINGS FEATURES NDC
Tommy Wolski and his Sport of Kings crew were on he scene last Saturday covering the National Driving Championship at Fraser Downs. It was an awesome show with Ontario’s Brad Forward winning the right to represent Canada at the World’s in Norway May 14-20. Sport of Kings on Citytv at 11 a.m. Saturday provides a memorable 16-minute segment on the NDC at Fraser.
MADE IT ON DEADLINE
Mark Donnelly, the Canucks’ fashionable anthem singer who’s known in NHL circles as ‘Mr. O Canada’, was a surprise guest for the opening ceremonies of last week’s National Driving Championship at Fraser Downs.
Decked out in his trademark tuxedo and long, flowing hair, Donnelly belted out the anthem in a style that would have made Pavarotti proud.
But the story behind his appearance was one to behold. Donnelly, who lives in White Rock with his wife and nine children, thought with the races starting at 1:15 that’s when he was supposed to perform. Wrong. Because of a tight, North American simulcast schedule, Donnelly had to be ready to go no later than 12:32 p.m. At 12:15, he was just leaving home!
Brock Lazaruk, the hard-working marketing and PR guy at Fraser, went into action. He kept in constant touch with Donnelly by cellular phone, getting minute-by-minute updates as to his whereabouts. When Donnelly swung into the Fraser Downs parking lot he was half-dressed. Two security guards grabbed his keys, Donnelly jumped out of his van and literally jogged from the Atrium to the winner’s circle.
While he buttoned his shirt, escorts carried his tuxedo jacket and cummerbund. “Water, I need water,” the big fellow gasped as Krystal Dupuis and Erik Hilmer of the marketing department sped off in different directions to get him a drink.
And then, like magic, an impeccably-dressed Donnelly broke into song right on cue in front of a bank of television cameras. It was as if he’d been there for hours warming up.
TWO ELIMINATIONS SATURDAY
Ten 3-year-old colts entered the Sandown Plate elimination and that forced Fraser Downs to have two eliminations on Saturday. The first will go as a non-wagering event at 12:45 p.m. with 2-year-old champ Primary Purpose tackling the very sharp Lil Western Dude.
The other division has been scheduled as the afternoon’s first race on the card with Bo Knows Power listed at 6/5 on the morning line. Also on the Saturday card is the $23,000 Final of the Delta. The field consists of eight 3-year-old fillies in six wagering interests. The entry of Oral Fixation and Real Suspicion is favoured at 6/5.
Just a reminder that the Good Friday card at Fraser Downs (April 10) is a night event and Easter Sunday (April 12) has been added as a live race day.