05/28/2009 11:00PM

Entertainment name of the game at Hastings


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Management is hopeful that Hastings will be the happening place to be in Vancouver on Friday nights. The first of 16 Friday evening cards goes this coming week and the marketing strategy employed by Hastings is clearly geared to a young audience.

There will be bands and DJs performing every Friday and also discounted prices for food and beverages.

"We want to make this the place to be," said Raj Mutti, the Hastings general manager. "We are seeing more and more young people at the track on Saturdays and Sundays and we hope the atmosphere we are going to create on Friday nights will make Hastings even more attractive for them."

Last year Hastings didn't start racing on Fridays until July 11, and it also ran the first few Friday cards during the day. The big difference between racing during the day and at night is that California bettors can wager into the Hastings card during the day. Quarter Horse associations control which out-of-town races are allowed into California during the evening, and for the most part Hastings is excluded.

Hastings will conduct an experiment of holding one race for bottom-level older horses going 3 1/2 furlongs. The reason for the Quarter Horse-like sprint is that Los Alamitos - a California track that runs races for Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds - will take the race.

"We'll see how it goes," said Mutti. "At the least we'll get some exposure to a different crowd and that certainly can't hurt. Our main goal on Fridays is to grow the business here. We'll certainly miss not having California betting on our races, but the combination of racing and the casino should make this an exciting place to be. The long-term growth from running during the evenings should easily offset the drop in simulcast handle from California. We were pleased with how the how well the evening cards went last year and hopefully they will continue to grow in popularity."

Purses even with last year

The addition of 600 slots at Hastings this year has helped keep purses steady despite a drop-off in live wagering. The same can't be said for handle. The daily average is down roughly 14 percent in both ontrack handle and all sources wagering, Mutti said.

"Because of the economy we budgeted for a decline in wagering this year," said Mutti. "The increased revenue from the slots has made up for the decrease, so the purse account is in okay shape."

The total live handle is up marginally because Hastings started earlier this year and there have been two more racing days compared to the same period last year.

No training on Mondays

Beginning this Monday, Hastings will not be open for training on Mondays. It will be the first time horsemen in Vancouver haven't had the option of training their horses every day. Management cited cost cutting and the need to maintain the track at a high level over the summer as one of the reasons for the closure.

"Following a trend of North American racetracks, we are closing to track one day a week to give the track a breather from the 920 horses that train over it daily," said Paul Ryneveld, director of racing. "It will allow our track maintenance department a full day where they can really focus on preparing the track for the upcoming race week."

The general consensus among local trainers is that it is a bad move.

"I don't think they should be telling us how to train our horses," said Dino Condilenios. "I have a few horses that need to get some exercise every day and I still have a lot of young horses that need as much schooling as they can get. I haven't talked to one trainer that likes the idea."

Jordan bringing at least one big horse

Trainer Terry Jordan could run both of his Sovereign Award winners at Hastings next weekend. True Metropolitan will definitely start in the $50,000 John Longden on Saturday. Dancing Allstar, who is stabled at Woodbine, is nominated to the $50,000 Senate Appointee on Sunday.

"I'm not sure where she is going to run," said Jordan. "There is a $100,000 stakes at Presque Isle Downs that I am looking at on Saturday and I might try her in a six-furlong stakes race on the turf at Woodbine. I don't see why she won't handle it."

Jordan was referring to the 5 1/2-furlong Satin N Lace at Presque Isle Downs and the $100,000 Zadracarta at Woodbine on June 14.

Jordan is confident that True Metropolitan will run a big race in the John Longden. In his last start, True Metropolitan finished second in the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal Stakes. A multiple stakes winner with over $1.2 million in earnings, True Metropolitan hasn't won since he captured the Grade 3 Eclipse at Woodbine on June 7, 2008.

"He is doing really well right now," said Jordan. "Is he as good as he's ever been? No. But he is doing a lot better than he was going into the George Royal. I think he'll be tough to beat."

True Metropolitan looked very sharp breezing six furlongs in 1:12.40 last Monday with leading rider Fernando Perez aboard.

"That was just about perfect," said Jordan.