By Greg Douglas – Dr. Sport
SCENE & HEARD: Today marks the official halfway mark of this 2017 thoroughbred season at Hastings Racecourse.
One year ago this weekend Richard Hamel was leading the jockey standings with 47 wins; Mike Anderson led his training rivals by sending 18 horses to the winner’s circle and Swift Thoroughbreds Inc. was at the top of the owners’ heap with 17 victories in 79 starts.
All three parties went on to capture their respective domains but not before having to maintain their winning percentages throughout the second half of the 2016 schedule.
Hamel wound up finishing with 70 wins to put a lock on his fourth overall riding title and second in two years; Anderson took his second consecutive trip to the podium as leading trainer with 37 wins while the popular Swift Thoroughbreds combination of Jackie & Horatio Kemeny with Naudia & Mark Mache were on top of their game for a third time, having won the owners’ title previously in 2013 and 2014.
Hamel seems to be on course for a three-peat in the jockey standings with 34 wins at the halfway point but don’t think for a second he’s not aware that David Lopez and Enrique Gonzalez are in hot pursuit. Lopez went into this weekend trailing Hamel by just three wins – 34 to 31 – and Gonzalez made himself heard with a hat-trick last Sunday to make it 30 victories this year.
Among the trainers’ circuit, Phil Hall got out of the gate quickly this year and has a commanding lead with 18 wins, five more than Mark Cloutier and seven ahead of Nancy Betts. Anderson, Greg Tracy and Glen Todd are grouped in a fourth-place tie with 10 wins each.
Hall is gunning for his first-ever title and is quite aware he will have to maintain the pace he has set over the opening 26 race dates this year to ward off the talented bunch not far in arrears.
In order for Swift Thoroughbreds to repeat as leading owners, their full-time trainer Dino Condilenios will have his work cut out. The North American Thoroughbred Horse Company (NATHC) headed into the weekend with 13 wins; Swift had nine and the pesky Peter Redekop had eight.
There is no telling what looms on the horizon over the next 26 race days at Hastings. But if they turn out to be as exciting as the first 26, racing fans will be the big winners.