Visiting jockeys Rico Walcott and Aaron Gryder thrilled an opening day crowd with $50,000 stakes victories under ideal weather conditions Sunday at Hastings Racecourse.

Walcott, leading rider at Edmonton’s Northlands Park in 2013, slipped through the rail on Title Contender to take a commanding lead entering the final turn and won the George Royal Stakes for 3-year-olds and up by 1 ½ lengths over long shot Twistgrips.

Title Contender, winner of the 2013 BC Derby with Walcott aboard, is trained by Anita Bolton for B.C. Horse Racing Hall of Fame owner Peter Redekop.

Title Contender’s final time was 1:16.25, paying $4.40, $3.10 and $2.60. With Twistgrips going off at almost 30-1, the 6-1 exactor paid $104.50.

Southern California-based Aaron Gryder fittingly rode Hollywood Miss to victory in the co-feature Brighouse Belles for fillies and mares. Hollywood Miss is trained by Troy Taylor for a syndicate owned by Glen Todd under the North American Thoroughbred Horse Company banner.

Final time for Hollywood Miss was 1:17.32, paying $3.90.

Todd is hoping to have Gryder as a regular rider again at Hastings. “We’re still in the talking stages,” Todd said. Gryder had 225 starts for Todd last year, finishing fifth in the overall jockey standings with 45 wins.

Total handle for the eight-race card Sunday was $679,783, a 38 per cent increase over opening day in 2013.

Racing resumes Saturday and Sunday at Hastings with regular 1:50 p.m. starts. Two more $50,000 stakes are on the card: the Ross McLeod and Jim Coleman Province.