09/06/2002 12:00AM

Hastings horsemen get eight more race days

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Hastings meeting, scheduled to end Nov. 3, will be extended to Dec. 1, said Hastings Entertainment Inc. president Phil Heard.

The Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association asked for the extension because several days have been canceled because of schedule changes. Last weekend Hastings management said no to the request, but after discussions with the HBPA all week, management reluctantly agreed to the extension, which will be eight extra racing days (four Saturdays and four Sundays).

"It really gets away from our plan of increasing purses and moving the industry forward," said Heard. "But, we understand the need for horsemen to run their horses and we agree with the HBPA that this is a matter of vital importance to the local Thoroughbred horse people."

With the additional eight days, the total number of live days will reach 77. Although that's 12 fewer days than originally scheduled, the total number of races will be similar to last year because of the marathon cards that have been run on weekends.

"We've had a good year and have actually made a small profit," said Heard. "And we were looking at going into next season with a hefty purse increase. The extension will likely have an effect on that, but I think everything will work out fine, especially once we get our teletheaters up and running."

HPBA President Mel Snow was elated with the news of the extension.

"This will help keep horses in the province and will encourage owners to go out and buy more horses," said Snow, who added that running during the day on weekends should attract enough betting to keep the extra days from being a drain on purses. "It will also make it easier to fill races next spring because the horses won't have been off for so long."

Dixie Jacobson, president of the British Columbia division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, is hoping that the announcement will help boost the CTHS's sale this Tuesday.

"It shows that the new management is committed to moving the industry forward," she said. "They've spent $1.7 million on fixing up Hastings Park and this is just another positive sign that the industry is headed in the right direction."

Owner-trainer Red Smith is in town this weekend from Alberta to run Five Swings in the fillies division of the CTHS Sales Stakes Sunday, and he plans on shipping horses here for the extension.

"I can easily fill up a trailer full of horses and I imagine a few other guys will come, too," Smith said.

Fancy As to return

Smith also reported that last year's B.C. Derby and Premiers winner Fancy As is doing fine and will resume training shortly. He was turned out this spring after a hard campaign in Southern California.

"I'll send him to Florida to train over the winter and then ship him to Woodbine to race next spring," Smith said. "Right now he's just enjoying himself on the farm and is about 9 out of 10 in terms of physical shape, so he's just about ready to get started again."

Forster still Chicago-bound

Trainer David Forster said that the extension won't change his plans of taking a few horses to the Chicago area after the Emerald Downs meet ends Sept. 16.

"We'll have plenty to run here, but I'm still planning on taking about seven horses with me to Chicago," he said.

Forster's son Grant has been pretty much in charge of the Forster stable at Emerald, and he's looking forward to the trip to Chicago.

"It should be a great experience," Grant Forster said. "There are a lot more options with distances and turf back there and it will be nice to see a different part of the country. We'll run at Arlington until they close after the Breeders' Cup, Oct. 26, and then move to Hawthorne. But once you're back there, there's a lot of different tracks within close shipping range, so there are a lot of options."