04/16/2009 11:00PM

Dion's B team makes an impact


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The decision by trainer Dale Greenwood and owner Danny Dion to leave Alberta and race at Hastings this year has already had a positive impact on racing here. In the first two days, they have entered seven horses.

Greenwood entered the Dion-owned pair of Bears Artiste and Broken Hearted in the seventh race on Sunday, a $75,000 optional claiming race. Without the two stakes-winning fillies, the race might not have been carded.

Make no mistake, the 25 horses Dion shipped to Hastings are the B team. Dion's best horses are based at Woodbine. Last year he raced two Sovereign Award winners, Fatal Bullet, the Horse of the Year in Canada, and Bear Now, the champion older filly or mare on the main track. Dion, who races under the stable name Bears Stable Ltd., took home the Sovereign as the outstanding owner, as well.

The B team fits nicely at Hastings though. Bears Artiste won the Alberta Oaks last year and was voted the best 3-year-old filly in Alberta. Broken Hearted won the Northland Oaks. She also won a $50,000 optional race at Hastings last November, ending Bears Artiste's three-race winning streak.

In Sunday's first race, a maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds, Greenwood and Dion will send the probable favorite, Bear Most Wanted.

According to Greenwood the reason for the move to Hastings was twofold.

"We were treated extremely well when we came out here for the B.C Derby last fall," said Greenwood. "Plus the way racing is deteriorating in Alberta helped us make the decision. They seem to be headed in the wrong direction there while things are looking up here."

Racing days were cut back in Alberta when the plans for a proposed one-mile track in Balzac were delayed. Balzac is a suburb of Calgary. In the past there was a split season between Stampede Park in Calgary and Northlands Park in Edmonton. When it looked like the new track was going to be built, Stampede Park made other plans that didn't include horse racing. Stampede Park usually opened in early April. This year there will only be racing at Northlands, beginning May 1.

"I doubt if the track at Balzac will ever get built," said Greenwood. "It seems like things are going to get worse before they get better in Alberta, so we made the move to B.C."

Greenwood did add that there would be trips back to Alberta for some of his horses, particularly Bears Artiste.

"She's an Alberta-bred and we'll be taking her back there for Alberta-bred stakes races," he said.

Greenwood probably would have ended up racing on the East Coast of the United States if his father had stayed healthy. It was a magnanimous gesture by Dion to ship his horses to Alberta in order for Greenwood to be with his father, who has since died.

"We were in Maryland last year and probably would have stayed there when my dad got sick," said Greenwood. "Daniel allowed me to bring the horses back to Alberta, and I got to spend the last three months with my dad. It was very good of him."

Greenwood, who has won more than 700 races in his career, mostly in Alberta, wasn't making any predictions on how his horses were going to run at the beginning of the meet.

"I know it's a lot tougher here than in Alberta," he said. "We'll see how they fit and adjust from there."

The Greenwood stable will likely be in a state of flux throughout the year. The best horses could end up at Woodbine, and there will likely be a few from Woodbine that end up here.

"The purses are so good at Woodbine that you pretty much have to run there if your horse is good enough," said Greenwood. "Plus, Danny has a lot of high-priced horses. Some of the ones that can't cut it there will end up at Hastings."

Greenwood is happy with the way his horses have been training this spring. He's also enjoying training in a milder climate.

"It's been a bit wet but it's a lot better than training over a frozen track," he said. "It's a nice surface here and you can train over it every day. I'm pretty happy to be here."

Management at Hastings is ecstatic about the new arrivals.

"We're excited to have the leading owner in Canada race his horses here," said Raj Mutti, general manager at Hastings. "And it is obvious Dale came to play. Their contribution to our opening weekend is tremendous. The horses they have entered on Saturday and Sunday are exactly the kind of horses we are trying to build our program around. It's certainly going to improve our program having Bear Stables and Dale Greenwood race here."