Updated on 09/16/2011 8:38AM

An expert rider of horses and tractors


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Drew Levere brings a rare perspective to his position as assistant track superintendent at Hastings Park. Levere, who is in charge of maintaining the racing surface at Hastings, also has a morning job as an exercise rider. He gets on about six horses a day for trainers Allan Jack and David Forster.

"It's a tremendous help to be out there galloping horses on a daily basis," said Levere. "I get a real feel for how the track is, and if a trainer has a complaint, I can filter out what's valid and what isn't."

Levere started out as a hotwalker at Hastings in 1981 and began galloping horses in 1982. He took out a jockey's license in 1983 but due to weight problems and a broken hip suffered in a 1984 race, he packed it in. "I was a 118-pound apprentice and I've always liked to eat," said Levere. "I won about 25 races but I knew I wasn't going to make it."

Levere went back to galloping and served as a valet in the jockeys' room for one year before joining the maintenance department at Hastings in 1986, when he learned how to maintain the track from longtime superintendent Jim Dimond.

"Jim was a tremendous influence and really helped me out," said Levere. "He did an amazing job of taking care of the track with the antiquated equipment he had to work with."

Levere said the technological changes, particularly the tractors, have made his job a lot easier in the last few years. "It's like driving a luxury car compared to what we used to have," he said. "The old ones actually caused damage to the track."

The five-furlong Hastings oval is made up of roughly 85 percent sand and 15 percent silt, and contains Sportsgrid - a synthetic material that breaks down into thin fibers and helps bind the track - and a stabilizer, a powdery substance that helps hold moisture. In the past few weeks the track maintenance department has been busily preparing the track for the final month of the meet, which figures to be very wet.

"We really have two different tracks here," Levere said. "In the spring and fall we add sand to the outside of the track and it gradually works its way down. By the time the weather warms up a lot of the extra sand is gone. The biggest complaint around here is that the track gets too loose in the summer, but we add as much water as we can to help hold it together."

When the Hastings season ends Dec. 1, Levere is headed to Southern California where he will gallop horses for a month before returning to prepare the track for the next Hastings season. When he first took over maintaining the track he spent a few weeks studying with Santa Anita superintendent Steve Woods, who, according to Levere, also started out as an exercise rider.

"I'll be at Hollywood Park," said Levere. "Last year I also went down, and when I wasn't galloping I watched how they maintained their track."

When Levere opens the track next year he will face a new challenge. Under wet conditions in previous years, the four-furlong training track was used extensively. But that will no longer be the case, as the training track, which is located in the infield, was recently seeded with grass for aesthetic purposes and the main track will now have to stand up on its own.

"It shouldn't be a problem," said Levere. "With the limestone base and Sportsgrid, the track holds up great. We hardly used the training track at all last winter."

One person who agrees with Levere's opinion of the Hastings track is Frank Barroby. Barroby trains Buckeye Bates, who has won 4 of his 5 starts this year and will be a prohibitive favorite in the seventh race Saturday. Barroby said the excellent condition of the track this summer has helped Buckeye Bates stay relatively sound this year. "He's a bowed horse and if the track wasn't as good as it is, he wouldn't have made it this far," said Barroby.