08/26/2013 2:40PM

Hastings: MacPherson barn on top of its game going into B.C. Derby, Oaks


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Trainer Craig MacPherson picked a good time to get on a roll with stakes horses. Just around the corner is the biggest day of the year at Hastings, when the Grade 3, $150,000 British Columbia Derby will headline six stakes totaling $650,000 on Sept. 8. Also on the stakes-rich card is the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks.

Including his win with Cougarville in the $50,000 Bird of Pay for 2-year-old fillies at Northlands Park last Saturday, MacPherson won with three of his last four starters in stakes races. On Aug. 18, he won the major preps at Hastings for the B.C. Derby and Oaks with Bluegrass Pride in the Richmond Derby Trial and Miss Derek in the Hong Kong Jockey. The day before, Reporting Star rallied to finish second behind Broadway Empire in the Grade 3, $200,000 Canadian Derby in his first start for MacPherson at Northlands.

“You put a plan in place and you hope everything works out,” MacPherson said. “Right now, everything is going the way we hoped it would.”

Bluegrass Pride and Miss Derek appear to be peaking at the right time. They were coming off seven-week layoffs going into their respective wins and will be relatively fresh horses heading into the Derby and Oaks.

According to MacPherson, Bluegrass Pride’s win in the Derby Trial didn’t take anything out of him, and he is expecting him to move forward when he comes back in the 1 1/8-mile B.C. Derby. His best race in three starts as a 2-year-old running over Polytrack and turf at Woodbine was a third-place finish in his debut in a maiden special race last September. He was claimed for $40,000 out of his last start in Ontario and sold privately to Leo and Norma Shaw, who race under the stable name L.D.S. Enterprises Ltd. He has taken a shine to dirt, finishing no worse than second in six starts at Hastings. His only loss going around three turns came in the $50,000 Chris Loseth, where he was squeezed back at the start.

“He’s been consistent all year, and he’s been playing and squealing at the barn since his last race,” MacPherson said. “He really couldn’t be going any better.”

Before his big race in the Canadian Derby, Reporting Star finished second on grass in the one-mile Jersey Derby at Monmouth Park. He also finished second in the Grade 3 Pegasus at Monmouth behind Verrazano.

“I don’t really know Reporting Star that well, but he seems to be doing fine,” MacPherson said. “He is a bit quiet, but he has been doing a lot of traveling. He’s coming back in three weeks after going a mile and three-eighths, so I won’t be doing too much with him. I’ll probably give him an easy breeze just so he gets a feel for the track.”

Richard Hamel, who rode Bluegrass Pride in the Richmond Derby Trial and Reporting Star in the Canadian Derby, will be aboard Bluegrass Pride in the B.C. Derby.

“He was committed to ride Bluegrass Pride before he rode Reporting Star,” MacPherson said. “They have different owners, and I didn’t want to have any issues between them.”

Rico Walcott may have earned the mount on Reporting Star with his timely ride aboard Cougarville in the Bird of Pay. Both horses are owned by Chad Joe, who races under the stable name Copper Water Thoroughbred Company. Walcott became available when trainer Robertino Diodoro confirmed Broadway Empire was going to make his next start in the Grade 3, $400,000 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park Sept. 29.

“I haven’t talked it over with Mr. Joe yet,” MacPherson said, “but I was pretty impressed with the ride Rico gave Cougarville, and he’s going to be at Hastings to ride in the Oaks.”

Walcott is the leading percentage rider in North America among jockeys who have ridden 300 races or more. Through last weekend, he had won with 31.92 percent of his mounts this year, slightly more than Russell Baze who is winning races at a 29.10 percent clip while riding mostly in Northern California.

Miss Derek is a standout among the local 3-year-old fillies at Hastings, and if she continues to move forward following her win in the Hong Kong Jockey Club, she is going to be a handful going 1 1/8 miles in the B.C. Oaks. In her previous race, she was able to win the $50,000 Supernaturel despite fighting with jockey Enrique Gonzales, who was trying to ease her off the pace. In the Hong Kong Jockey Club, she looked completely relaxed under Gonzalez. After stalking a modest pace, she made a strong move to win the 1 1/16-mile race by 1 1/4 lengths over pacesetter I Think So.

“She’s getting better all the time,” MacPherson said of Miss Derek. “She’s carrying more weight, and right now, she’s as good as I’ve ever seen her. The key is getting her to relax, and she seems to be getting the idea.”

Miss Derek also is owned by Joe, who on MacPherson’s recommendation claimed her for $75,000 at Santa Anita on March 17.