11/28/2003 1:00AM

Futural tries to end meet in style


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Hastings closes its 2003 season with a 12-race card and an excellent feature race, the $28,000 Au Revoir Handicap for 3-year-olds and up. The 1 1/8-mile stakes drew nine horses, including this year's Sir Winston Churchill winner Futural.

Post time for the first race is an early 10:53 a.m.

Futural will be making his first start for trainer Gary Demorest, who claimed him on behalf of the Diglett Stable for $25,000 Nov. 8. Demorest is having a big year with 25 wins from 86 starters, and he's won with 27 percent of his newly claimed horses.

Futural, 7, finished fourth in his last race, a $25,000 sprint, but prior to that race he finished a close third to Roscoe Pito in the Grade 3 Premier's Oct. 12 and he won the Churchill, Sept. 20. He certainly has enough speed to stay in touch with the likely pacesetter and potential favorite Irish Pleasure, and will be tough to handle if he runs back to his race in either the Premier's or Churchill. Leading jockey Pedro Alvarado will ride.

Irish Pleasure, who is trained by Daryl Snow, was a very impressive winner over most of these in a restricted allowance race Nov. 16. Setting most of the pace, the 5-year-old son on Maudlin drew off to score by 1 1/2 lengths over Blowin in the Wind. He earned a Beyer Figure of 92, the best last-race Beyer in the field, and repeat of that performance would likely be good enough to win here. But he'll have to travel an extra sixteenth of a mile, and in two previous tries going this far, he's come up short.

Nicky Wright takes over the call on Irish Pleasure from Anthony Stephen, who is riding in Trinidad this weekend.