Opening Day Sunday, April 27 Launches 2014 Season

Historians have recorded that the first thoroughbred race staged in Vancouver was held in 1889 in what was referred to as the Vancouver City Stakes. It was the first – and last – time Howe Street was used as a racetrack. A horse named Mayflower took home first-place money of $250.

Shortly thereafter horse racing moved to Hastings East Park, where the original infield was a collection of charred stumps and the barn area had one small stable the size of a two-car garage. Although there would be two other major tracks built – Richmond’s Minoru Park (later renamed Brighouse Park) in 1909 and Lansdowne Park in 1924, only Hastings Racecourse remains where all thoroughbred racing in the Lower Mainland has been conducted since 1961.

The opening of the 2014 thoroughbred season at Hastings Racecourse Sunday, April 27 will officially mark the 125th anniversary of racing in B.C. An eight-race card featuring two $50,000 stakes – the George Royal and Brighouse Belles – starts at 1:50 p.m. Sunday.

The 51-day meet at Hastings concludes on Oct. 13 with four tentative dates reserved for later in October depending upon the success of the summer season. “That is our goal,” Hastings Racecourse GM Darren MacDonald says. “It’s a challenge we welcome”.

BIG STEP UP: Hastings Racecourse has moved forward several notches in the annual HorsePlayers Association of North America ratings based on betting values. Hastings was listed 19th in North America this year after being ranked 32nd in 2012 and not even listed in the top 50 three years ago. “Low win takeout, along with 15% pick 3 and pick 4 takeout is a staple at the Vancouver oval,” the Horseplayer Monthly says. “Hastings continues to develop a following in the marketplace.”

FINISH LINES: Hastings-based trainer Melanie Walters who died in February as a result of injuries in a training accident at her parent’s farm in Langley will be remembered in a memorial ceremony following Sunday’s first race. Melanie, 37, was coming off a strong year in 2013 where she finished in the top 10 in the trainer standings with 15 wins from 58 starts … The third race on Sunday’s card will be the Patti Tubbs Sovereign Purse in recognition of her 2013 Jockey Club of Canada Sovereign Award. Tubbs won in the Photography Media Category for her picture of a muddy-faced veteran Hastings jockey Frank Fuentes heading back to the jock’s room after a victory last season … Jockey Aaron Gryder will be riding owner Glen Todd’s mounts on opening day at Hastings. Todd says he will also have 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winning jockey Mario Gutierrez returning to his Hastings roots from southern California for special appearances this season, including the 69th running of the Grade 3, $150,000 BC Derby on Sunday, Sept. 14 and BC Cup Day on Monday, August 4, the richest single days of stakes racing on the 2014 calendar.