07/20/2011 1:13PM

Hastings: Crew Leader, St Liams Halo to renew rivalry in Longacres Mile

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Crew Leader outfinishes St Liams Halo to win the $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate at Hastings.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Watching Crew Leader and St Liams Halo duke it out in the $50,000 S.W. Randall Plate at Hastings last Sunday brought back memories of days gone by when match races were an integral part of the North American racing scene.

There were three other horses in the Randall, but Crew Leader and St Liams Halo held their own duel, with Crew Leader getting the nod at the wire. St Liams Halo broke on top, and Crew Leader never let him get away by more than a length. They hooked up just before the three-eighths pole and went toe-to-toe the rest of the way. People on the Hastings backstretch were still talking about the race Wednesday morning.

“If that didn’t get you excited about horse racing, nothing will,” said trainer Rob Gilker, who didn’t have a horse in the race. “And it was also nice that we had a big crowd here to watch it.”

It was the first stakes win for Crew Leader, but it wasn’t like he went into the race without solid credentials. Trained by Dino Condilenios, Crew Leader finished second in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby last year. He won his first two starts this year, and the 95 Beyer Speed Figure he earned for his win in a $50,000 optional claiming sprint June 4 is the top figure at the meet. He was coming off a second behind St Liams Halo in the Lieutenant Governors’, but he has done his best running from off the pace and it looked like St Liams Halo was going to have an easy time of it up front. Condilenios praised jockey Chad Hoverson for his ride aboard Crew Leader.

“We talked about it at length before the race, and Chad rode him perfectly,” Condilenios said. “If another horse tried to go with St Liams Halo, then he was going to take him back. If not, then he was going to have to do the dirty work.”

It turned out there was no dirty work being done as they waltzed through very slow fractions of 24.45 seconds and 48.44. They picked things up considerably to post an excellent time of 1:43.00 for the 1 1/16 miles, just four-fifths of a second off the track record.

The next start for Crew Leader will be in the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 21. The shape of the race will be completely different, where at least one horse will undoubtedly set very fast fractions.

Condilenios wasn’t concerned about how the Mile was going to unfold.

“He’s versatile and he is actually more comfortable coming from off the pace,” Condilenios said. “He really hasn’t run a bad race this year. He didn’t have the best trip in the Lieutenant Governors’ and only got beat a length. We’re looking forward to running him in the Mile.”

St Liams Halo also is being pointed to the Longacres Mile, owner Glen Todd said. Todd was disappointed in the loss but was pleased with the way St Liams Halo ran and how he came out of the race.

“What can I say, it was a great race and a tough one to lose,” he said. “One jump before and after the wire, our horse’s nose was in front. He came out of it in great shape, and we’ll start getting him ready for the Mile.”

St Liams Halo’s trainer, Troy Taylor, will be overseeing his training from Del Mar, where he arrived with eight horses Tuesday morning.

Wando Woman points to Cup Distaff

Wando Woman came out of her win over Classic Alley Kat in the Strawberry Morn in good shape and will be heavily favored when she runs in the 1 1/8-mile B.C. Cup Distaff on Aug. 1.

Trainer Cindy Krasner wasn’t too concerned when Wando Woman almost dwelt coming out of the starting gate.

“She is usually a slow starter, but that was taking it to a new level,” Krasner said. “They were going pretty fast early, so I wasn’t worried.”

Krasner was impressed with the performance of Classic Alley Kat, who set wicked fractions and still made Wando Woman work to get past her in the stretch. Classic Alley Kat is trained by Elizabeth Stolzenberg.

“Huge kudos to Elizabeth’s filly,” Krasner said. “For a horse to set those kind of fractions and hang on to finish second was phenomenal.”

For the record, the fractions were 22.54 and 44.94 over a track rated sloppy. The final time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1.44.66.

Stolzenberg was pleased with the way Classic Alley Kat came out of the race.

“Considering how she ran, I thought she would have been knocked on her butt for days, but she bounced back pretty quickly,” Stolzenberg said.

Stolzenberg wasn’t sure where Classic Alley Kat would make her next start. She could run against the boys in the B.C. Cup Sprint or possibly the Distaff.

◗ A memorial service for Dale Price will be held in the backstretch kitchen at 1 p.m. Sunday. Price, 52, lost a long battle to cancer July 6. Price spent most of his career as an assistant to local Hall of Fame trainer Allan Jack. He also worked at Gainesway Farm in Kentucky. He is survived by his daughter Kerrie, son Mathew, and grandson Quintin.