HorseRacing Central July 3, 2009
REMINDER: The Friday Night Live racing card for tonight – July 3 – has been cancelled due to a lack of available horses. In making the announcement earlier this week, Hastings Racecourse General Manager Raj Mutti said: “We have had a flu-like virus affecting the barn area for the last two weeks. In the best interest and well-being of our horse population, management has no alternative but to cancel the Friday, July 3 card. Regular racing resumes Saturday and Sunday afternoons with 1:25 p.m. start times.”
WHAT’S ON TAP
It’s a big afternoon at Belmont Park on the July 4th U.S. Holiday Weekend card. Three stakes are on the 11-race program with the action getting started at 1:44 p.m. with the $200,000 Dwyer featuring Warrior’s Reward and Calvin Borel as the 9-5 favourite. This is the horse that has caused the rift between the connections of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and rider Borel. They want a commitment from Calvin for the West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer on August 1st but he is scheduled to ride Warrior’s Reward in the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga on the same day. As of Thursday, the Mine That Bird camp decided to remove Borel from Mine That Bird and start a search for yet another pilot on the Derby winner.
Also at Belmont Saturday are the Piroress Stakes (2:16 p.m.) for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs on the main course with the likely favourite being the Bob Baffert trainee Gabby’s Golden Gal, recent winner of the Acorn at Belmont and next up on the slate is the $400,000 Suburban with the well-traveled It’s A Bird as the 2-1 choice following closely by Dubai import Asiatic Boy, 5-2 on the morning line.
The Churchill Downs Independence Day feature is the $150,000 Firecracker (2:29 p.m.) for older horse turf milers.
The Hollywood Park headliner Saturday is the $150,000 American Handicap (4:30 p.m.) for older horse turf runners at a mile and eighth. Our sister track Emerald Downs will be hosting the $50,000 King County Handicap (4:38 p.m.) at one mile.
The top east coast sprinter Fabulous Strike (Ramon Dominguez) will try to stretch his dynamic speed to seven furlongs in the Tom Fool Handicap (2:17 p.m.) at Belmont Park. At Churchill Downs the feature is the $100,000 Locust Grove (2:29 p.m.) for filly and mare turf milers. At Hollywood Park there are two exciting and rich stakes on the agenda, beginning with the $700,000 American Oaks Invitational (4:30 p.m.) for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and quarter on the grass. As you might suspect with such a big purse, the starting gate will be filled to capacity with 14 hopefuls lining up. Later on the card is the $250,000 Triple Bend Handicap (5:30 p.m.) with 14 entrants going seven furlongs on the cushion track.
FAREWELL TO A RACING FRIEND
Mr. Duane Onstad was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan but resided in Vancouver since the 1930’s and our local thoroughbred fraternity mourns his passing on June 27 at the age of 92. Mr. Onstad owned horses over a span of 50 years and his many friends and admirers will miss his weekly visits to Hastings Racecourse. A celebration will be held in his memory with a date to be determined by his family.
POSITIVE OUTLOOK FOR FRASER DOWNS
With good reason, General Manager Chuck Keeling is taking a positive approach to what lies ahead for the 2009-2010 harness racing season at Fraser Downs.
“Competitive racing results in stronger cards and that results in customers reacting in a positive way,” Keeling says. “The B.C. Standardbred Association is forecasting 20 to 25 per cent purse increases next season and that will obviously generate optimism and help the momentum throughout the industry.”
As the 2008-2009 season wound down at Fraser Downs during the final weekend of June, Keeling – who doubles as Vice President of Racing Operations for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation – reflected on a year he referred to as “challenging”.
“Start with the economic uncertainty that we’ve all been faced with and then factor in nine racing dates lost to unexpected bad weather,” he said, looking back on the season. “We had the worst winter in 40 years and lost an unprecedented nine dates in late December and early January.”
Keeling also noted that things picked up considerably in February and March with the arrival of several Alberta trainers and drivers when a lack of standardbred dates became an issue at Edmonton’s Northlands Park after Stampede Park in Calgary closed down.
Veteran horseman Keith Clark led the invasion of Alberta talent that included such respected names such as Rod Hennessy and son Michael, Brent Grundy, Brandon Campbell and Kelly Hoerdt.
Mutuel handles improved in February and March both ‘live’ at Fraser Downs as well as off-track wagering outlets. “There was no question about it,” says Fraser Downs Director of Racing Jackson Wittup. “The presence of the Albertans added to the excitement of our season.”
Not surprisingly, Bill Davis finished the season as leading driver and leading trainer prior to his departure to Ontario. Davis had 144 driving wins and 108 training wins, capturing both categories by wide margins.
Closing day at Fraser featured the $20,000 Final of the Rising Starlet Stake and was won by a horse on the rise: Legal Suspensory. With Darren Howald in the bike, the daughter of Pulledsuspensory went gate to wire in a final time of 1:54.4, a life mark for the winner. Legal Suspensory went undefeated in 2009, winning four straight. She is owned and bred by the Shale Stables.
The 2009-2010 season at Fraser Downs will see the elimination of Saturday afternoons in favour of Saturday evenings. The 107-day racing calendar begins on Friday, Sept. 11, 2009 and ends on Saturday, June 26, 2010.