Vancouver, B.C. (April 15/16) – With an unmistakable feeling of enthusiasm in the air, the 2016 thoroughbred season gets rolling at Hastings Racecourse Sunday afternoon with an eight-race card featuring two $50,000 stakes: the Brighouse Belles and Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural.
“We’re ready for a big year,” says Hastings General Manager Darren MacDonald. “There’ve been a lot of positives to take from the 2015 season when we experienced an almost 15 per cent growth in our all-sources handle. When you add the fact we’ve had a great winter with simulcast wagering up over 20 per cent, it bodes well for the coming live racing season.”
The Brighouse Belles and Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural kick off a 41-stakes schedule this year with purses totaling $2.6 million, up $100,000 compared to 2015. It’s possible that the owners of Swift Thoroughbreds, Inc. – Horatio and Jackie Kemeny along with Mark and Naudia Mache – will be decorating their own horse in the Swift Inaugural. Trained by Dino Condilenios and ridden by last year’s top rider Richard Hamel, Modern is listed on the morning line as a 5-2 favourite. Modern won last year’s $50,000 George Royal and was named 2015 B.C. champion sprinter.
Swift Thoroughbreds and Condilenios could, in fact, make it a sweep in Sunday’s six furlong stakes with two entries in the Brighouse Belles for fillies and mares: Rather Beautiful (3-1) and Sabrina (6-1). Morning Coffee (5-2) is the morning line favourite, owned by Whieldon Thoroughbreds and trained by Rosanne Anderson.
Morning Coffee, winner of four races last year including the $50,000 Supernaturel, will be ridden Sunday by Pedro Alvarado, runner-up to Hamel in the 2015 jockey standings.
The competition for leading rider this year is expected to heat up through the summer months with the return of Amadeo Perez, Scott Williams, David Lopez, Antonio Reyes and Sahin Civaci. Newcomers Skyler White Shield, Mariano Ascencio and Mirko Sanna add to what has been described by veteran Daily Racing Form contributor Randy Goulding as “the deepest jockey colony at Hastings Racecourse in years”.
FINISH LINES: When talk of jockeys pops up at Hastings the conversation inevitably turns to hometown hero Mario Gutierrez. He put Hastings and British Columbia on racing’s world stage with his phenomenal run in 2012 with victories aboard I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but missing the opportunity of capturing the elusive Triple Crown when I’ll Have Another was scratched from the Belmont due to tendonitis. Incredibly, ‘Super Mario’ has another shot at the Kentucky Derby on May 7 aboard the undefeated 3-year-old bay colt Nyquist, owned by the same I’ll Have Another connections: Canadian owner Paul Reddam and trainer Doug O’Neill.
Noted local horse owner Glen Todd, who guided Mario through his early riding career and remains his mentor, assures racing fans that Gutierrez will again be making special riding appearances at Hastings this summer … Hastings Racing Club 2 will be out in force Sunday to watch Shooting Jacket race in the Swift Inaugural. Trained by Nancy Betts, Shooting Jacket is a stable mate of Merlot, who was purchased by HRC-2 for $30,000 at the Hastings Paddock Sale in March. The second Club was initiated following the success of the original Hastings Racing Club last year that sold out its 200-member ownership fees at $250 per, resulting in Square Dancer winning two stakes races and being named B.C. Open Horse of the Year under the direction of trainer Steve Henson.
Hastings Racecourse general manager Darren MacDonald represented the local horse racing fraternity in Toronto earlier this month when Russell and Lois Bennett were presented with the prestigious E.P. Taylor Award of Merit by the Jockey Club of Canada for their longtime involvement and commitment to thoroughbred racing in Canada. The profoundly successful Kelowna breeders are members of the Canadian and British Columbia Horse Racing Halls of Fame.
First race on opening day Sunday begins at 1:50 p.m.
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