04/14/2005 12:00AM

Cash infusion boosts purses

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - More racing, more purse money, and a feeling of stability should help Hastings have a strong 2005 meet. Live racing begins Saturday, and there's a strong feeling throughout the industry that the past 10 years of decline here are over.

Total purses for the 83-day meet are projected at $15 million, up $1.5 million from last year, thanks to an interest-free loan from Hastings's owner, the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. The loan will be paid back from future slots revenue; slots have been approved at the track and could be in place as early as this fall.

It's still not clear if the $1.5 million will be used to raise daily purses or to cover the meet's additional 12 days of racing, which mainly consist of the Friday night cards that will begin June 3.

Post times have been changed from last year. First post on weekends and holidays will be 1:25 p.m., and Friday cards will start at 6:25.

Total live handle for the meet is expected be substantially higher in 2005 than last year because California will bet into the Hastings card for the entire year, as opposed to just the final couple of months of 2004.

Lord Nelson and Five Point Star accounted for all four of the sprint stakes for older horses at Hastings last year, and they headline the opening-day feature, the $40,000 George Royal at 6 1/2 furlongs. Both are trained by Dino Condilenios.

Lord Nelson won this race last year, and also captured the 6 1/2-furlong Hong Kong Jockey Club while on his way to being named local horse of the year. According to Condilenios, Lord Nelson isn't as "cranked up" as he was going into last year's George Royal, but the trainer still expects him to run a solid race. Frank Fuentes rides.

Five Point Star isn't coming into the race as well as Condilenios would like, either. He stepped on a nail and had to miss a work prior to his final six-furlong prep in 1:15.40 on April 9.

"It wasn't a big deal, but it did set him back a bit and I'm just not sure how tight he is," said Condilenios.

Pedro Alvarado, back to defend his title, rides Five Point Star.

Blowin in the Wind won the Grade 3 Premiers at 1 3/8 miles in his final start of 2004. He is training extremely well, but 6 1/2 furlongs might be a bit short for him in this company.