06/19/2008 11:00PM

Alarico goes for torrid MacPherson barn

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Craig MacPherson is hoping that the roll he's on will continue with Alarico in the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes at Hastings on Sunday. MacPherson got off to a slow start at Hastings this year, winning just once from his first 22 starters.

He had won a couple of races at Stampede Park, and his overall record for the year was 3 wins from his first 29 starters. But things began to turn around when Alarico won the first race at Hastings on May 31 for him, and MacPherson currently ranks third in the trainer standings at Hastings with 9 wins from 41 starts.

He also won the Alberta Derby with Arkhill last weekend, and he's looking for a good effort from Alarico Sunday.

"I didn't like looking at the trainers stats and seeing my name with just one win from 20 or so starts," said MacPherson. "Our horses were running good races, but things would happen, like getting into trouble or just getting outrun. This is a tough meet and there are a lot of guys that are dead serious about winning races here, so we had to adjust our expectations with some of our horses."

MacPherson claimed Alarico out of a $15,000 maiden victory on Aprilo27. The new owners, the Grayross Stable, were immediately rewarded when Alarico came from off the pace to defeat Outofthesale for the same price in his first start for MacPherson.

"I was running against him in maiden special weight races when he was a 2-year-old last year with horses that I thought were pretty decent," MacPherson said. "I thought that at the beginning of the year he was probably worth that kind of money."

MacPherson probably would have brought back Alarico in a midpriced claiming race if he could have. But the shortage of 3-year-old winners at Hastings altered his plans.

"I probably would have jumped him up in price the first time I ran him back, but it's tough to fill 3-year-old races for winners right now," said MacPherson. "So you go where there's a race, and it looks like the Sales Stakes or nothing right now."

Technically, the move from winning a $15,000 claiming race to an added-money race is a big step up in class. Nonetheless, the 6 1/2-furlong Sales Stakes is restricted to horses that have gone through a Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society Sale, and the favorite - Star Prospector - doesn't appear to be on top of his game. Alarico also has the best Beyer Speed Figure at the distance in the race.

"I just hope something develops up front between, maybe, Cabron and Star Prospector," said MacPherson. "That would put us in with a chance to rally and maybe pick up the pieces. Obviously, Star Prospector is the one to beat, but Cousin Wilber looks like he could be pretty tough, too."

Cousin Wilber, trained by Mel Snow, is coming off a third-place finish behind Alberta Derby winner Arkhill in a $50,000 optional race on June 1.

"He's a pretty nice horse, but he's been unlucky in some of his races where he's been hung wide," said Snow. "There aren't as many horses in the Sales Stakes, and he should get a better trip. There is also a bit of speed, and the two things combined should help him."

In his third-place finish behind Arkhill, Cousin Wilber was squeezed back soon after the start and went five wide while making a strong late move. Snow was happy with the colt's four-furlong move in 47.60 seconds last Sunday.

"He's coming into the race in good shape," he said, "and hopefully he'll be a little luckier than he has been so far."

Lady Raj, Holy Nova tough barnmates

Troy Taylor will have a pretty strong entry if he runs both Lady Raj and Holy Nova in the $50,000 Vancouver Sun on July 5.

Holy Nova is clearly the best older filly or mare at Hastings, and Taylor wasn't that surprised when Lady Raj easily won the $57,000 Strawberry Morn Stakes going 1 1/16 miles on June 14. It was just the third win in 27 starts for Lady Raj.

"She ran second to Monashee in the Ballerina and the Delta Colleen last year, so it wasn't like she wasn't running good races," said Taylor. "I liked her going into the race, and one of the reasons we kept Holy Nova out of the Strawberry Morn is that we thought Lady Raj was good enough [to win]."

Holy Nova had won the two previous stakes races for fillies and mares at Hastings, but she came back a little tired after her win in the Senate Appointee on May 31.

"If we had another week or so we probably would have brought her back in the Strawberry Morn," said Taylor. "She should be fine for the next one, though."

Gilray memorial planned for Tuesday

A memorial service for Dr. John Gilray will be held at the Victory Memorial Park Funeral Centre in Surrey, B.C., at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Gilray died of cancer on June 5, according to a news release from Equine Canada.

Gilray, 78, served as a commission veterinarian at Hastings and was also involved with breeds other than Thoroughbreds. He was the chairman of Zone 5 (western division) of the Canadian Equestrian Federation for 10 years.

In 2004 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Horse Council of British Columbia for outstanding service to the province's horse industry.