04/26/2012 12:10PM

Hastings: Heads still hot after Arizona winter

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Barbara Heads is off to a strong start at Hastings with three wins from her first nine starters. Last year Heads started 30 horses before she won her third race with Dream in the Dark on May 14. Heads credit racing at Turf Paradise this winter as one of the reasons for her quick start.

It was the first time Heads spent the winter in Phoenix and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“There is no place like home but I keep clicking my heels hoping to wake up in the sunshine,” said Heads on a wet and gloomy Wednesday morning at Hastings. “There is a lot to be said about nice weather. We never had a bad track to run on, and for some of the horses that I didn’t get started, it was a great place to get them ready to run here. ”

There were quite a few Hastings-based trainers at Turf Paradise last winter and Heads appreciated the company.

“Partly because of the weather, everyone has such a great attitude,” said Heads. “It was great having all of the Canadians there.”

While there was plenty of fun and camaraderie, the racing was also serious business. Heads had a good meet, compiling a 13-10-6 record from 58 starters. She is also optimistic about continuing her success at Hastings.

“I like my barn this year,” she said. “Last year half of my horses were babies and now they are 3-year-olds. We started them early, too. Some were in Washington and then moved to Golden Gate. Of course, some were with me in Arizona.”

One of her 3-year-olds, Mysterious Soul, showed a lot of promise when he debuted and won a $30,000 optional maiden race opening day. He also has the pedigree to advance. His sire, Perfect Soul, won the Grade 1 Keeneland Turf Mile and his dam won a couple of Grade 3 races, also on the grass.

“He could be all right,” said Heads. “Right from the get-go he had a beautiful stride that covered a lot of ground. He’s still really green and I think he’ll be a lot better horse when he goes long. Actually, I was a bit surprised he sprinted that well. There is a lot of turf in his breeding so eventually we would like to try him on grass.”

Heads said she was looking for some type of nonwinners-of-two for Mysterious Soul to make his next start.

Hensons enjoy warm, profitable off-season

Trainer Steve Henson and his son Robbie Henson were part of the Hastings contingent at Turf Paradise. Officially the horses ran under Robbie’s name and he won 10 races from 66 starters. They also shipped a few horses to Santa Anita where running under Steve’s name they had three thirds from nine starters.

“I am happy to be home,” said Steve Henson. “I missed my wife and grandkids. Arizona is a nice place to winter but, honestly, I loved California more. California is where racing is at.”

The Hensons work as a team, and though the horses officially ran under Steve’s name in California, most of the time Robbie was in charge of the operation at Santa Anita.

“It was a matter of money,” said Steve. “It is a lot more expensive to race in California. I have more than he does so I was the one that got licensed.”

The elder Henson’s financial situation improved dramatically after he claimed Brass Plate at Turf Paradise for $6,250 on Nov. 27. Since then Brass Plate has won four times and earned over $54,000. In his last start he came from well off the pace to win the $35,000 Wildcat at Turf Paradise going 1 3/8 miles on grass. Henson left Brass Plate at Turf Paradise with trainer James Fey, who is pointing him to the 1 7/8-mile Hasta La Vista May 6.

“He’s coming home after that,” said Henson. “He ran for $5,000 and I was thinking of the marathon series at Hastings when I claimed him. He’s turned into a much better horse than that, so we’ll just have to see where he fits here.”

Benefits of Turf Paradise

Trainer Frank Barroby echoed the sentiments of all the local trainers that spent the winter at Turf Paradise. Included on the list are Monica Russell, Robbie Anderson, Craig MacPherson, Terry Clyde, Mike Anderson, Phil Hall and William La Vanway.

“You aren’t running for very much money but they treat you well and just being in the sunshine every day makes you feel great,” said Barroby.

Barroby won with his first two starters opening day and both paid great prices. Terlani, $17.60, came from well back to win a $25,000 claiming race. R Dubai Girl paid $62.70 when she forced a slow pace and went on to win a bottom-level claiming race.

“I liked them both,” said Barroby. “It really helped that they had raced over the winter while most of the horses they were facing were making their first start of the year.”