05/17/2012 9:43AM

Hastings: Claresmiezie star of McLeod, but Gutierrez is the drawing card

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The $50,000 Ross McLeod at Hastings on Saturday drew a strong field of 3-year-old fillies, including the sensational Claresmiezie. The race isn’t the reason officials at Hastings are expecting the largest crowd in years to turn out, however.

The credit goes to Mario Gutierrez, who will be riding I’ll Have Another in the Preakness. The media blitz following Gutierrez’s win aboard I’ll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby has been nonstop in Vancouver. Gutierrez, a top rider at Hastings since 2006, made an appearance at Hastings last Sunday and people began lining up at 8:30 in the morning for a meet-and-greet event that began at 1 p.m.

“With the exposure Hastings has received because of Mario’s tremendous achievement, we are expecting a huge crowd,” said Raj Mutti, the general manager at Hastings. “Probably larger than what is traditionally our biggest day of the year, B.C. Cup.”

At a private party Monday, Gutierrez didn’t want to make a prediction about the Preakness.

“It’s horse racing and anything can happen,” he said. “But, I have a lot of confidence in my horse.”

This will be the inaugural running of the Ross McLeod. McLeod was the founder of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the parent company of Hastings. He was passionate about horse racing and was instrumental in convincing the City of Vancouver to allow slots at Hastings. McLeod died last September.

Claresmiezie is clearly the horse to beat in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint that drew eight horses.

Trained by Greg Tracy, Claresmiezie hasn’t lost in western Canada and she really hasn’t been tested in any of her four wins. After dominating the $50,000 Lassie here and then toying with her opposition in the $50,000 Princess Margaret at Northlands Park, Claresmiezie was shipped to Monmouth Park, where she finished fifth in the $101,000 Sorority Stakes last Sept. 5.

She made her first start of the year in a six-furlong allowance race at Hastings on April 15 and once again she was in a class by herself, winning by 6 1/2 lengths with Pedro Alvarado aboard.

The main threat to Claresmiezie is Evelyn’s Dancer, who was good enough to finish second behind Made to Love Her in the $100,000 Moccasin at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 20.

Evelyn’s Dancer is trained by Troy Taylor, who has also entered $100,000 Sadie Diamond Futurity winner Sunnyside Gal.

In her first start this year, Sunnyside Gal finished second to Our Eleanor in a six-furlong allowance race May 5.

Our Eleanor drew the rail.

Gabigotherway, voted the 2-year-old filly champion in B.C. last year, will be making her first start of the year.