By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Hastings Racecourse GM Darren MacDonald was the bearer of good news when he paid Nick Felicella a visit on a rainy Tuesday afternoon this past January.
And what better place to deliver the message than Nick’s Spaghetti House on Commercial Drive?
That’s where Mr. Felicella converted a street-level coffee shop into a popular Italian restaurant after arriving in Vancouver from Naples almost 60 years ago.
MacDonald wanted Nick and his wife Pauline to know the racing industry had unanimously elected to name a $50,000 stakes race at Hastings after Spaghetti Mouse, the Felicella’s success story, who retired as a 10-year-old in 2012 as the all-time leading B.C.-bred money winner with $929,850 in earnings.
Nick was choked. “I have to phone Pauline right away,” he said with a gasp. “We had no idea.”
It was in the fall of 2003 when Nick and Pauline purchased a spirited yearling for $21,000 at the CTHS Yearling & Mixed Sale. They came up with the name Spaghetti Mouse in honour of the horse’s dame Desert Mouse, never realizing what a star and fan favourite ‘The Mouse’ would become with local racing fans.
Every penny of his almost $1 million in earnings came from races at Hastings Racecourse. His list of accolades is plentiful: named BC Champion five times; won the BC Derby 2005 with Dave Wilson aboard; won four consecutive stakes in 2008 under Pedro Alvarado and was named to the B.C. Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2014.
Subsequent to the passing of original trainer Gary Demorest, Spaghetti Mouse was trained by Ned Sams and Lenore Dubois.
At his retirement party in the winner’s circle at Hastings, Pauline shared a long-time secret with Vancouver Sun journalist Yvonne Zacharias. “He doesn’t like spaghetti,” Mrs. Felicella whispered. “But he loves peppermints. You can hand him a handful of nine and he’ll put them in his mouth and hold them, eating them one at a time.”
With his name now attached to an annual stakes race, Spaghetti Mouse joins a very elite Ring of Honour at Hastings Racecourse.
And so it should be.