Vancouver, B.C. (Sept. 14, 2014) — Sunday’s 69th running of the $150,000 Grade 3 BC Derby at Hastings Racecourse will no doubt create new and exciting storylines for the racing archives in British Columbia. That’s been the case down through the years.
Racetrack regulars all have their favourite memories. And if you happen to ask trainer John Snow what stands out for him on past Derby Days, be prepared to hear all about a 3-year-old dark bay gelding who in 2003 completed a Cinderella story that a Hollywood script writer would have been proud to pen.
Snow and five blue-collar pals ponied up $4700 to make a purchase at the 2001 CTHS Yearling & Mixed Sale. “Some of us invested $500; some of us invested $1600,” he says. “Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we’d win a BC Derby.”
It happened on a bright sunny Sunday in 2003. The horse was named Roscoe Pito after Roscoe (Ross) Rankin, a bartender at Hastings Racecourse who was one of the original investors.
Roscoe Pito was on a three-race winning streak including the Emerald Downs Breeders’ Cup Derby three weeks prior to the BC Derby.
“By the time he won at Emerald Downs our total earnings were at something like $146,000,” says one of the original owners Raj Mutti, who rose from busboy status to general manager during his career at Hastings. “Roscoe Pito went into the BC Derby as the 7-5 favourite. With Pedro Alvarado riding him, he took command on the backstretch, drew off down the lane and won by two lengths. It was the biggest thrill of our lives and probably always will be. I can tell you the celebration went into the wee hours of the morning after the race.”
Nobody seems quite certain where ‘Pito’ came from. Mutti says he thinks it meant something in Spanish. Rankin says he was called ‘Pico’ as a kid and it became ‘Pito’ in the translation.
“All I know is that all six of us loved him so much,” Rankin says as he continues to tend bar in the George Royal Room at Hastings. “He retired to a family farm in Alberta where a young lady was training him for show jumping. He recently returned to Gordon and Wendy Christoff’s equestrian facility in Tsawwassen.”
The Christoffs have owned horses at Hastings. Wendy is a certified coach through Equine Canada and was a Canadian reserve rider at the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Kentucky.
When Rankin heard that Roscoe Pito was back in British Columbia at the Christoff farm he paid his 2003 BC Derby winner a surprise visit.
“It had been years since I’d seen him,” an emotional Rankin says. “I yelled out ‘Roscoe’ and he looked at me, then turned away. I called out his name once more and he came over and snuggled up face-to-face like he used to do years ago. It was quite a moment. A golden moment.”