08/04/2011 2:39PM

Hastings bounces back from slow start


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Following a recent trend the mutuel handle for B.C. Cup Day at Hastings was up by over 10 percent compared with last year. The total handle for the 10 races was easily the largest of the year at $1,172,104 compared with $1,062,846 in 2010.

Because of poor weather and having to compete with the Vancouver Canucks, who made a long run only to lose the final game of the Stanley Cup, the handle at Hastings was down about 14 percent early in the meet. The last month and a half, it has taken a dramatic shift forward, and the total handle for the meet is now off by around 3 percent, according to Hasting’s general manager, Raj Mutti.

“We were getting killed early,” Mutti said. “Mother Nature let us know we are living in a rain forest, and nobody in this town can compete with the Canucks. The weather has improved, and with the Canucks out of the picture our handle has improved greatly.”

Mutti said Hastings is actually taking in more dollars this year, but because of the change in the value of the U.S. dollar the total handle is slightly down.

“About 50 percent of our play comes from the United States, and we are dealing with a dollar that is 10 percent lower than it was last year,” he said. “Taking into account the two months of absolutely horrendous weather and having to compete against the Canucks, I am pretty happy with the numbers.”

There is free admission at Hastings, so no attendance records are taken. Mutti estimated a crowd between 10,000 and 12,000 showed up on a beautiful sunny day.

“It was the biggest B.C. Cup Day crowd we have had in years,” he said. “It showed in our ontrack mutuel numbers, and our food and beverage figures were well over last year’s totals. We are certainly developing a lot of momentum.”

When Mutti became the general manager of Hastings in 2007, one of his goals was to introduce the Hasting’s experience to a younger demographic.

“Hastings has become a cool place to come in the city,” he said. “It is a fun, social atmosphere for people to come. It has taken about five years, but we are really seeing the results this year.”

Almost Time has a couple of options

Trainer Dino Condilenios was weighing his options with Almost Time, who proved he could get 1 1/8 miles with his win over Trick of the North in the B.C. Cup Classic. Last year, Almost Time won the Sprint and then finished fourth in the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs. Condilenios might have other plans this year.

“We are looking at the Mile, but if all the tough ones from here are going we might just stay at home and run him in the Churchill,” he said.

Condilenios was referring to the 1 1/8-mile Sir Winston Churchill on Sept. 5.

It does look like all the top local handicap stars from Hastings are going to the Mile, including the Condilenios-trained Crew Leader, who edged St Liams Halo in the S. W. Randall Plate on July 17.

“Don’t forget, Almost Time beat the tough ones from here in the Mile last year,” he said. “But we’ll probably keep him here for the Churchill.”

Don’twaitforme also eyeing Mile

Trainer Rob VanOverschot said he was pleased with how Don’twaitforme came out of his win in the Sprint and was considering the Mile for his next start.

Don’twaitforme came from last in the four-horse field to beat Cherokee Notion in the 6 1/2-furlong dash. It took a while for VanOverschot to bring Don’twaitforme back to the races after he came up with an abscess in one of his feet just before last year’s British Columbia Derby, in which he would have been the favorite if he had made the race. He has won both of his starts this year.

“His next start will be in next year’s Classic,” VanOverschot joked. “Seriously, the Mile is a consideration. I think he will be a much better horse on a mile track. He has a long stride, and he really struggles on the turns here.”

Stewards make tough call in race

What is a big day at the races without a little controversy? The stewards took a long time to determine Jump Up and Kissme caused enough interference to Herbie D. at the top of the stretch to be disqualified in the Stellar’s Jay.

It was a no-win situation, and the call could have gone either way. There was plenty of bumping between the two horses, and the stewards felt the incident cost Herbie D. the win. In some jurisdictions horses are disqualified for any interference, but at Hastings the stewards will leave a horse up if they determine it didn’t affect the outcome of the race. Many will argue that Jump Up and Kissme was much the best. After all, he did go on to win by 2 3/4 lengths and had the momentum coming into the stretch. Stewards at Hastings are not allowed to comment on their decisions.

Also making the call difficult was that it looked like Herbie D., with Pedro Alvarado aboard, may have initiated the contact. Alvarado immediately claimed foul, though, and the stewards laid the blame on Kevah Nicholls, who rode Jump Up and Kissme.

The trainers of Jump Up and Kissme and Herbie D., Phil Hall and Rob Gilker, indicated they would settle the matter in the Richmond Derby Trial on Aug. 14.