05/12/2011 3:21PM

Hastings: Blinkers off should relax Belle Evangeline

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Craig MacPherson is hoping that taking the blinkers off will make Belle Evangeline a more relaxed horse when she runs in the Hastings feature Saturday. Even without the equipment change, Belle Evangeline looks like the one to beat in the first-level $50,000 optional claiming race at 6 1/2 furlongs. She is one of seven 3-year-old fillies in the field.

Belle Evangeline made her first three starts on turf at the Fair Grounds, where she was trained by Michael Stidham. She was an easy winner when she made her debut in a $30,000 maiden claiming race at one mile, and before coming to Hastings she finished second in a $30,000 starter race, again going a mile. In her first start for MacPherson she finished third after prompting a quick pace in the $50,000 Boulevard Casino at 6 1/2 furlongs.

“I just want to see if she’ll settle a bit more without blinkers,” said MacPherson. “It would certainly help her in the long run, especially when we stretch her out.”

Pedro Alvarado retains the mount.

Trainer Barbara Heads has entered Cassia who scored a game win when she made her debut in a $20,000 maiden-claiming race for B.C.-breds. She is taking a big step up in class, but Heads said she thinks Cassia has the talent. Heads said she isn’t sure which way Cassia will go in her second start.

“She’s a nice filly,” said Heads. “She ran a little green when she won, and you never really know how they’ll respond when they run back. They can either go the right way, or the shock of running could work against them.”

Joey’s Jewel has improved dramatically as a 3-year-old and is the only horse in the field with more than one win. Trained by Charlene Miller, Joey’s Jewel scored a sharp win over Fun Again in a $10,000 maiden claiming race April 17 and then came from just off the pace to win a $12,500 claiming race April 30. The 69 Beyer Speed Figure she earned for her latest win is the highest in the field.

Burnin’ Britches was much the best when she won a $20,000 maiden-claiming race for trainer Greg Tracy April 24. Despite getting banged around leaving the gate and pushed out on the first turn she still won by three lengths. It also appeared jockey Quincy Welch had more to work with as she was drawing away in the stretch. Keveh Nicholls picks up the mount from Welch, who is riding at Woodbine.