Vancouver, B.C. (Oct. 9/15) – Hastings Racecourse jockey Richard Hamel remembers Thanksgiving Day 2014 for all the wrong reasons. He appeared to be on his way to victory aboard favoured Splendid Scat in the $75,000 Fantasy for two-year-old fillies when a horse in front of him went down.
A nasty spill left Hamel with a severely bruised pelvis and months of rehabilitation during the winter.
“It wasn’t what you’d call the ideal way to end a season,” Hamel says. “Hopefully, I’ll have more to give thanks for this year.”
He won’t be alone. Hamel will have a throng of enthusiastic Square Dancer owners cheering him on in Monday’s marquee race – the $100,000 Grade 3 Premier’s for three-year-olds & up on a Thanksgiving Day card that begins at 1:50 p.m.
Square Dancer – trained by Steve Henson – has been a sensation at Hastings Racecourse this year, having won three consecutive starts including back-to-back stakes: the $100,000 Redekop Classic on BC Cup Day (Aug. 3) and $75,000 S.W. Randall Plate on Sept. 13. The spunky five-year-old chestnut gelding seems to thrive on pleasing his 200 owners who each invested $250 this summer under the banner Hastings Racing Club.
Hamel rode Square Dancer in the Randall Plate when he won by a nose in a thrilling photo finish. “He loves the Hastings track,” Hamel says. “He reads the turns so well and really gets into it.”
Scott Williams, the second leading rider at Northlands Park in Edmonton, was aboard Square Dancer for his Redekop Classic victory. Hamel finished second aboard favourite Modern.
Hamel said he was “pumped” for the Premiers after working Square Dancer this week. “Originally we didn’t think he was as good as he is,” Hamel says. “This is one amazing horse.”
Hamel heads into the Sunday/Monday cards at Hastings leading the jockey standings with 65 wins for the season. His five trips to the winner’s circle last weekend gave him 16 more wins than runner-up Pedro Alvarado. Hamel won the Hastings riding crown in 2010 and 2011.
Besides the Premiers, Monday’s holiday card includes three other stakes: the $100,000 Grade 3 Ballerina for fillies and mares three-years-old & up; the $75,000 Fantasy for two-year-old fillies and the $75,000 Ascot Graduation for two-year-olds.
Thanksgiving Monday marks the conclusion of the major 2015 stakes schedule at Hastings Racecourse.