Updated on 09/15/2011 12:56PM

A fine year for Hamel, fancy that

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EDMONTON, Alberta - After spending eight years at Hastings Park in Vancouver, jockey Richard Hamel made the trek east over the Rocky Mountains to Alberta in 1998.

Just 28 years old at the time, Hamel was considering changing careers but wanted one more shot. Now, four years after the difficult decision, Hamel is all smiles and on pace to reach his goal of 100 victories in 2001.

"I started in Vancouver, but I wasn't getting much of a break, so I decided I either had to make a move or I had to quit riding," said Hamel. "I finally decided to make the move, and it's worked out great for me."

The biggest break for Hamel came this spring after Jake Barton, the regular jockey for Fancy As, decided to try his luck at Woodbine. Just two weeks before the opening of the 2001 Alberta season, Hamel was given the opportunity to work the subsequent Canadian Derby champion.

"It was a late decision by Red and Linda Smith," said Hamel, of the husband-and-wife trainer-owner team behind Fancy As, "but I definitely wanted the opportunity.

"They asked me to come over one morning and work him, and that was it. Obviously, it's something I've really enjoyed."

Hamel had matched his previous high total of 79 wins going into this week. And while getting the mount on Fancy As had been a part of that story, Hamel has been consistently impressive and says there's a reason for his newfound success.

"Injury-free," he laughs. "The first two years I suffered some serious injuries, but this year everything has gone well and I feel great."

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