Vancouver, B.C. (Oct. 1/16) – Jockey Richard Hamel attended to his business early and with a bang at Hastings Racecourse Saturday afternoon.

Hamel entered the seven-race card just two victories shy of 1,500 career trips to the winner’s circle.  By the end of the third race, the 47-year-old leading rider at Hastings had scored a natural hat-trick including back-to-back $50,000 CTHS Sales Stake wins

After winning the opening race in an $8,000 claimer, Hamel hit the charmed 1,500 plateau aboard Stanz in Command with a late charge to beat favoured Lord Vancouver by a nose in the CTHS Sales Stake for three-year-old colts and geldings.

“I’m relieved that it’s over,” he said, hoisting a commemorative banner that had been signed by hundreds of his admirers in the racing industry.  “This is awesome.”

Stanz in Command, owned by Rob Scott and trained by Charlene Miller, finished the 1 1/16 mile distance in a final time of 1:44.49, paying $6.70, $2.90, $2.10.

Career victory number 1,501 came in the very next race – a $50,000 CTHS Sales Stake for three-year-old fillies.  Hamel won on favoured C U At Eau Claire by five lengths for owner Don Danard and trainer Greg Tracy.  C U At Eau Claire finished the 1 1/16 miles in a final time of 1:45.49. At one point the $2.20 payoff winner had a 12-length lead in the four-horse field.

With the three consecutive wins under his belt and the 1,500 career milestone in the record books, Hamel took a back seat to the riding exploits of Alberta invaders Keishan Balgobin and Rico Walcott in Saturday’s $100,000 BC Premier’s and $100,000 Ballerina, respectively.

Balgobin oozed confidence after winning the BC Premier’s aboard Killin Me Smalls for owners Deltin Stable and Ed Welsh and trainer Ernie Keller.  “I knew he could do it,” Balgobin said after holding off a dramatic charge by 30-1 longshot Venetian Mask in the closing strides and winning by a head.  Killin Me Smalls, who went into the race as defending champion, finished the grueling 1 3/8 miles distance in a final time of 2:17.40, paying $5.70, $3.90, $3.40.

Walcott rode Snuggles to victory in the Ballerina for fillies and mares for owners Swift Thoroughbreds and trainer Dino Condilenios.  Snuggles prevailed over Victress, the only two three-year-olds in the race, in a final time of 1:50.26 over 1 1/8 miles for fillies and mares three years old and up.

“We’d won four in a row before finishing second to Victress in the BC Oaks,” Condilenios said, “As a group, we’re really proud of Snuggles. Today’s win was just a whole bunch of fun.”

Live racing resumes at Hastings Racecourse Sunday with an eight-race card that begins at 1:50 p.m.


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Darren MacDonald