09/03/2011 11:53AM

Hastings: Crew Leader comes back quickly for Churchill

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Crew Leader outfinished St Liams Halo to win the $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate at Hastings (above), then ran fourth in the Longacres Mile. He comes back in 15 days for the Sir Winston Churchill.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Crew Leader is coming back pretty quickly Monday after running a hard race in the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs Aug. 21. If he can handle the quick turnaround off that fourth-place finish he will be tough to beat in the $50,000 Sir Winston Churchill at Hastings.

The 1 1/8-mile Churchill for 3-year-olds and up drew six horses and headlines an eight-race card that begins at 1:50 p.m. Pacific. Supporting the Churchill is the $50,000 Delta Colleen for fillies and mares. Locals Dashing Daisy and Wando Woman will try and fend off Emerald Downs invaders Zenovit and Hard Way Ten.

Despite Crew Leader’s tough race just 15 days ago, trainer Dino Condilenios is confident the horse can show the same kind of form that he displayed in winning three of his four starts at Hastings this year.

“He came out of the Mile in great shape,” said Condilenios. “If he doesn’t run here he would be going a mile and three-eighths in the Premiers off a six-week layoff. It’s not impossible, but he shipped well, is eating everything, and couldn’t be going better. So why not run him?”

Crew Leader began the 2011 season with a sharp win going 6 1/2 furlongs in a conditional allowance race April 23. After another win in a $50,000 optional sprint June 4, he came from well back to finish second behind St. Liams Halo in the 1 1/16-mile Lieutenant Governors July 1. Next, Condilenios instructed jockey Chad Hoverson to put Crew Leader in the race early in the $50,000 S. W. Randall Plate and the result was a nose victory over St. Liams Halo.

With Cherokee Notion appearing to be the lone speed in the Churchill, Condilenios said Crew Leader will likely be involved right from the start.

Senor Rojo returns to Hastings after a successful trip to Northlands Park, where he won the $75,000 Speed to Spare Aug. 20. Trained by Dave Forster, Senor Rojo came from off the pace to win the 1 3/8-mile Speed to Spare. The Churchill should set him up perfectly to defend his title in the Grade 3 Premiers Oct. 2.

Cherokee Notion has finished in the top three in 15 of his 17 starts at Hastings and could be dangerous if he gets away on his own. Trained by Troy Taylor, Cherokee Notion set moderate fractions on his way to winning a $50,000 optional race going 1 1/16 miles Aug. 18. In his only try at 1 1/8 miles he finished third as the favorite in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby last year.

◗ The seven-horse Delta Coleen features a matchup between Dashing Daisy, the winner of the B. C. Cup Distaff Aug. 1, and Hard Way Ten, who won the Emerald Downs Distaff Aug. 21. Zenovit will try and win her first race since she won the British Columbia Oaks here last year.

◗ There are still spots available to the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship qualifying tournament that will be held at Hastings Sept. 18. First prize is $10,800 and the first four finishers will qualify for the estimated $2 million NHC in Las Vegas in January. The entry fee for the Hastings tournament is $150 and the field will be limited to 150 players.