08/12/2011 1:09PM

Hastings a different place during PNE fair

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The annual fair at the Pacific National Exhibition starts next weekend and with it comes a few changes to the atmosphere at Hastings.

First off, there will be around a million people going through the site during the fair and a lot of them will drop by to watch live racing.

The schedule at Hastings changes during the fair. There will be no racing on Saturdays and Sundays until Sept. 10. Leading into the fair, there will be racing Thursday and Friday this week starting at 7 p.m. Friday has a couple of $100,000 stakes races for 2-year-old Canadian-breds going 6 1/2 furlongs, the Jack Diamond Futurity for colts and geldings and the Sadie Diamond Futurity for fillies. During the fair there will be racing Wednesdays, Thursdays and Friday at 3:20 p.m. The last day of the fair is Labor Day, and Hastings will have a 1:50 start.

The main reason for the schedule change is Hastings cut a deal with the PNE to park cars in the infield. One of the benefits Hastings gets in return is that parking lots are set aside for their patrons when events like soccer or football games are being held at nearby Empire Fields.

Depending how you look at it, one of the negatives of having all that fair food nearby is considerable weight gain. It is just about impossible to get past the mini-donut stand, and if you can, you run right into Hunky Bill’s perogie stand.

Bill Konyk, a horse owner at Hastings, has been doling out plates of perogies, sausages, and fish and chips at the PNE since 1966. Konyk has also been known to pile on a few extra sausages and perogies to horsemen. His son, trainer Bill Konyk Jr., always looks forward to the fair.

“It has been very good to us over the years,” said Konyk Jr. “It means long days but it’s worth it.”

The best thing about the fair is that it means there is serious racing on the horizon.

The biggest day of all is Sunday, Sept. 11. Heading the six stakes that day is the Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby. The 1 1/8-mile feature closed with 24 nominations Aug. 6 and it is just too early to tell who the main players are going to be. The $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby this Sunday and the Grade 3, $300,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park next Saturday will likely point out some of the main players. The Richmond Derby Trial at Hastings Sunday will also give us an idea of how possible B.C. Derby runners Commander and Northern Causeway stack up against a very tough Jump Up and Kissme.

Stakes horses take temporary leave

Most of the top older horses at Hastings will be heading out of town during the fair. Crew Leader, St Liams Halo, and Don’waitforme are all pointing to next Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

Crew Leader, who edged St Liams Halo by a nose in the S.W. Randall Plate July 17, was on his toes when he worked a bullet five furlongs 59.40 seconds with Chad Hoverson aboard Friday morning.

“Chad was really happy with him,” said trainer Dino Condilenios. “He cooled out really well and I just hope he doesn’t catch the virus that is going around my barn right now.”

Trainer Dave Forster is shipping Senor Rojo to Northlands to run in the $75,000 Speed to Spare next Saturday. Senor Rojo figures to be one of the favorites in the 1 3/8-mile race. He won the Grade 3, $100,000 Premiers at the same distance last year.

“We know he can go that far, and the only other horse in the race that won going a mile and three-eighths is Footprint, who won the Canadian Derby,” said Forster.

Forster also reported that he is retiring Wind Storm. Bred and owned by George Gilbert, Wind Storm won 12 races including the B.C. Cup Distaff in 2010. She retired with career earnings of $287,084.

“She has had plenty of minor problems throughout her career,” said Forster. “When she developed a quarter crack we decided to stop on her.”