06/24/2011 3:05PM

Hastings: Don'twaitforme nearing 2011 debut

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Don’twaitforme is one work away from making his first start of the year, according to trainer Rob VanOverschot. The last time Don’twaitforme ran, he was an impressive winner over Cherokee Notion in the Richmond Derby Trial on Sept. 6. He would have been the favorite for the Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby, but he didn’t make the race.

Don’twaitforme has started five times and has never been worse than second. He won a $30,000 optional maiden claiming race in his third start and then stretched out for the first time in the B.C. Cup Stellar’s Jay and finished second to Cherokee Notion. Don’twaitforme took a big step forward in his next start, scoring a 3 3/4-length win in the Richmond Derby Trial, and was the top local 3-year-old going into the B.C. Derby. He looked a little off when he walked off the track following a one-mile work over a sloppy track a week before the derby and hasn’t raced since.

“He developed an abscess in one of his feet,” VanOverschot said. “It was tough, but what are you going to do? We weren’t going to run him if he wasn’t 100 percent.”

Don’twaitforme began preparing for the 2011 season in January but had to deal with another foot abscess, and VanOverschot has been very picky about what kind of track he will let Don’twaitforme work over.

“The weather has been terrible all spring, and I’m not taking any chances with him,” he said. “His last two works are a good example of what we’ve been dealing with. I wanted to work him back in a week last weekend, but once again the track was off, so it was 10 days between works. He is going to work fast regardless of the track condition, and I am just not going to work him if the track isn’t perfect.”

Don’twaitforme did work last Wednesday, and he turned a few heads with a brilliant five-furlong move in 58.60 seconds, almost two seconds faster than the second-fastest work of the day. He also looked pretty sharp in his previous work June 12, when he posted the best of 41 five-furlong moves in 59.40 seconds.
“He is doing really well, and I really think he is a much better horse than he was last year,” VanOverschot said. “Sean Evans was aboard for both of the moves, and he weighs 150 pounds.”

VanOverschot hasn’t mapped out a schedule for Don’twaitforme.

“I haven’t really looked at where he is going to run,” he said. “I just want to get one more good work into him and then start looking for a race.”

Track attributes handle decline to weather

The wet weather hasn’t helped the mutuel handle at Hastings. The total live handle for the year is down by 6.9 percent, according to Raj Mutti, general manager at Hastings. A lot of the drop in handle can be attributed to the poor weather, and, according to Mutti, the last few weeks the handle has actually been up compared with last year.

“Three things have really hurt us: the weather, short field size, and having to compete with the Vancouver Canucks while they were taking a run at the Stanley Cup,” Mutti said. “We were down about 15 percent early, and really most of the downturn was due to the horrible weather. Lately, the weather has improved, and there has been a dramatic turnaround.”

Despite the drop in handle, there are no plans to adjust the purses. The only changes made from the original schedule were a reduction from $75,000 to $50,000 for the Chris Loseth, Richmond Derby Trial, and Lieutenant Governors.

“Our purse pool is in excellent shape,” Mutti said. “I think our biggest challenge is putting on a compelling product. Days when we’ve had decent weather with good-sized fields, we have been blowing last year’s figures out of the water.”

One of the things Hastings has done to help increase the handle is move the post times for Saturday, Sunday, and holidays a half-hour later, to 1:50 p.m.

“When we come on at 1:20, there are just too many competing tracks going at the same time,” Mutti said. “We find our handle picks up when a lot of the eastern tracks drop out of the equation. Plus our local fans seem to be coming out later, as well.”

One problem Hastings faces, and there won’t be a cure until next year, is that it is temporarily sharing the site with the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League and the Vancouver Whitecaps of the North American Soccer League. Post times have to be shuffled when one of them is playing at home. Last Saturday, the first race started at 3:20 p.m.

“We would like to be more consistent with our post times, but last week wasn’t bad, and we like to view it as an opportunity,” Mutti said. “We were hoping to attract fans going to the Whitecaps game that started at seven o’clock, and it worked. We were actually having a great day until we had three scratches that took our feature race down to four horses. Without the scratches we would have been up considerably compared to last year.”