09/23/2011 12:25PM

Hastings: Crew Leader, Class Included seek to lock up local divisional honors

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Divisional honors will be on the line in the two major stakes races that close out the 2011 Hastings meet next Sunday. Crew Leader would likely get the nod over St. Liams Halo as the top older horse with a win in the $100,000 Premiers. Emerald Downs-based Class Included would certainly be named the top 3-year-old filly if she beats older fillies and mares in the Grade 3, $100,000 Ballerina.

Class Included could be favored in the 1 1/8-mile Ballerina. Trained by Jim Penney, Class Included scored an impressive four-length win over Castinette Dancer in the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks on Sept. 11. Russell Baze was aboard for her win in the Oaks and, according to assistant trainer Kay Cooper, Baze will be back to ride her in the Ballerina.

Prior to her strong performance in the Oaks Class Included won the $65,000 Washington Oaks at Emerald Downs on Aug. 13. She appears to be peaking at the right time and Cooper likes the way she is coming into the Ballerina.

“She is doing excellent,” said Cooper. “We are planning to work her at Emerald Saturday and if she comes out of the work in good shape we’re coming back.”

If all goes according to plan, Class Included could be formidable in the Ballerina. She earned an 82 Beyer Speed Figure for her win in the Oaks, which is a better figure than Dashing Daisy received for her thrilling win over Hard Way Ten and Orchids Silver in the Delta Colleen. Dashing Daisy also won the B.C. Cup Distaff and is the current leader of the older filly and mare division at Hastings. A 3-year-old who appears to be improving can be a dangerous commodity when she faces older horses in the fall and Class Included apparently fits the bill.

“She really couldn’t be doing any better, “said Cooper. “I expect her to have a good work Saturday and hopefully we’ll be up there next week.”

According to Cooper, Jebrica is now a possibility for the Premiers. Jebrica won the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby on Aug. 14 and it looked like he was going to win the B.C. Derby when he made strong move to reach contention at the top of the stretch. He couldn’t get past a very determined Northern Causeway, however.

Jebrica wasn’t being considered for the Premiers until Thursday morning when Cooper found out Noosa Beach, who was being pointed to the Premiers, isn’t going to make the race.

“He came out of the derby in great shape but he is just a little 3-year-old and we didn’t want any part of Noosa Beach,” said Cooper. “This changes things, and we’ll see what the owner has to say. We were planning to work him on Saturday so we’ll take it from there.”

Hard Way Ten returns for Ballerina

Trainer Doris Harwood was disappointed about Noosa Beach not being able to run in the Premiers, but she is looking forward to giving Hard Way Ten a shot in the Ballerina.

“Noosa Beach popped an abscess,” said Harwood. “The Emerald surface has been very hard this year and we’ve had an epidemic of foot problems. They are supposed to fix it after the meet is over. We’re just going to turn him out and bring back a big strong 6-year-old next year. He really likes the surface at Hastings so you just might see more of us there next year.”

Noosa Beach had won seven stakes in row prior to finishing second to Awesome Gem in the Grade 3, Longacres Mile on Aug. 21. In his only start at Hastings, he won the $50,000 George Royal in his first start this year.

Hard Way Ten, whose lone win this year came in the $65,000 Emerald Downs Distaff, ran a big race in the Delta Colleen. The 1 1/8-mile Delta Coleen had to be the race of the year at Hastings. Dashing Daisy, Hard Way Ten, and Orchids Silver hooked up at the top of the stretch and battled all the way to the wire, where it took a photo to separate the three horses. All three are expected to run in the Ballerina.

“Hard Way Ten is doing beautifully and we’re looking forward to coming back,” said Harwood.

Leading rider title still up for grabs

The race for leading trainer was over a long time ago with Troy Taylor well on his way to his fifth straight title. Taylor has 52 wins at the meet, 24 more than Craig MacPherson. There is still a battle for the leading jockey, however. Going into the final four days of racing, Richard Hamel and Mario Gutierrez are tied with 82 wins.

Hamel is looking to win his second straight riding title. Gutierrez was the leading rider at Hastings in 2007-08.