08/09/2005 11:00PM

First-year trainer off to winning start

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - In her first full year as a trainer, Tracy McCarthy is having a tremendous year. She has won eight races from 32 starts at Hastings, and not included in her stats are three stakes wins in Alberta with Stole One and Hotenuforyoo. Stole One and Hotenuforyoo are trained by McCarthy at Hastings but she runs them under Stuart Simon's name when she ships them to Alberta.

McCarthy is looking forward to the next few weeks. After a tremendous performance by Monashee in a $75,000 optional race last weekend, McCarthy is pointing her to the $150,000 Breeders' Cup B.C. Oaks Sept. 1.

It was Monashee's second straight win, but more importantly it was her first try around three turns, and she appears to be peaking at the right time.

What was so impressive about Monashee's performance was how she battled through very fast interior fractions and still had enough left to not only win the race, but draw off with authority. Her final time for the 1 1/16-miles was 1:44.83, exactly the same time Slewpast ran in her B.C. Cup Stallion Stakes win last Monday.

"She likes to run hooked," said McCarthy. "She's just coming to herself now and it's nice to see her going so well with Oaks coming up."

Monashee has won 3 of her 4 starts this year, but the only time she tried stakes horses she finished sixth, in the Mount Royal Handicap at Stampede Park May 8. According to McCarthy, that performance shouldn't be held against her.

"When she broke from the starting gate the ground broke out from underneath her and then she took a couple of steps and stumbled again," said McCarthy. "It was just a bad start and she also hit and took the hide off of her pasterns."

It took a while for Monashee to recover from her misadventure in Alberta, but she came back strong, winning a $50,000 optional sprint by 4 3/4 lengths July 15.

One reason for her improved performance in her last two starts is an equipment change.

"We added ear cones, which are kind of like earplugs," said McCarthy. "She's all business when she's running her race, but she's easily distracted - so we put the cones on to help keep her focused through the paddock experience and post parade. She looks kind of funny wearing them but she sure looked pretty when she was drawing off in the stretch."

Notis Otis nearing a start

McCarthy is also looking forward to the return of Notis Otis. Notis Otis was the champion 2-year-old in British Columbia last year, but following a trip to Alberta in the spring, he contracted a virus and came close to dying. He worked six furlongs on Aug. 4 and should be ready to run soon.

"He's about one work away, and hopefully we can find an allowance race for him in the next couple of weeks," she said. "He's training great and he's feeling so good we have to use a lip chain just to tack him up. How he'll come back after what he went through is anybody's guess."

If all goes well, Notis Otis could make it to the $250,000 British Columbia Derby Sept. 24.

"That's a big if," said McCarthy. "We'll know more after we get a start into him."

Regal Red targets Cover Girl

Another star from last year, Regal Red, is expected to start in the Cover Girl Handicap on Aug. 21. Regal Red has started only once in 2005, winning the Strawberry Morn Stakes April 23. She was scratched out of the Sun Handicap May 14 when her trainer, Robbie Anderson, discovered she had a saucer fracture.

Regal Red has stayed at the track since she was injured, and after much light jogging she has picked up her training in recent weeks. She worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.60 on Aug. 2 and came back with an easy five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Sunday.

"We'll X-ray her after she works and if it looks good she'll run in the Cover Girl," Anderson said.

If Regal Red runs her usual race she'll be tough to beat. After finishing second in her debut, Regal Red rattled off seven straight wins, six in stakes. She's earned $183,189.

Beware of speedballs

Speed could be dangerous this weekend. New material was added to the track Monday, and the last few times that's happened, it took days for the new material to mix with the old and the result was a loose and cuppy track that favored front-runners.

According to Anderson, who is part of the track committee at Hastings, "2000 pounds of Stabilizer" - a binder used on racing and other recreational surfaces - was added to help bind the track during the hot, dry weather."

Stabilizer has been part of the makeup of the track for the past few years.

"You almost have to water it enough so that the track is muddy,"Anderson said.