07/15/2009 11:00PM

Golden Pursuit still tough at 8

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The first leg of the endurance series drew a full field of 12 older horses at Hastings on Saturday. The 1 1/8-mile feature for 3-year-olds and up is run under starter handicap conditions and goes as the eighth race. Horses that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less in 2008-2009 are eligible to the race.

The starting highweight is Golden Pursuit who is easily the top money earner with $239,173. Trained by Terry Clyde, Golden Pursuit seems to be as sharp as ever as an 8-year-old. He has won his last two starts and is shedding seven pounds off his win in the Similkameen Cup at Sunflower Downs with Tyler Walker aboard on June 26. His usual rider, Stephanie Fedora, rode him to a smart win over next-out winner Lord Vic in an $11,500 claiming race at Hastings in his previous start. With Fedora out for the year due to a shoulder injury, Dave Wilson will pick up the mount.

Vintner won two races in the series last year and will be making his first start since finishing last going 1 3/4 miles in the final leg of the series on Nov. 1. Trainer Barb Heads is hoping for a good effort in his seasonal debut.

"He has been training well enough, so we'll jump in with four feet," she said. "He is a natural distance horse and he should be fit enough. We just couldn't find the right race for him. At the least, this should set him up nicely for the starter race on B.C. Cup Day."

Fernando Perez rides Vintner.

Mario Gutierrez was Vintner's rider last year but he will be aboard Bad Sneakers. Trained by Troy Taylor, Bad Sneakers has won two of his last three starts and looks like the main speed. In his latest win, he set the pace under pressure and held on to outlast Numaany by a head in a $7,500 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles. Numaany also has been entered.

The sleeper could be Candlestick Park who is coming off a fifth-place finish in a $25,000 optional sprint on July 12. Candlestick Park was very popular at the recently concluded Golden Gate meet, where he was claimed in six straight races, most recently for $8,000 on Jan. 11. Candlestick Park will be making his second start for trainer Ned Sams and should appreciate the move to a distance at which he has won two of his three starts.