04/26/2013 2:37PM

Hastings notes: Senor Rojo should offer price in George Royal Stakes

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Senor Rojo could be overlooked in Sunday's George Royal Stakes at Hastings.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Senor Rojo is probably going to get overlooked when he runs in the $50,000 George Royal at Hastings on Sunday. The 6 1/2-furlong distance is the reason. Senor Rojo actually has a decent record sprinting, 2-2-4 from 9 career starts going 6 1/2 furlongs, but since he won the Grade 3 Premiers going 1 3/8 miles in 2010 and the $100,000 Speed to Spare going the same distance in 2011, he usually doesn’t attract much attention when he sprints.

He was easily the class of the field, but was dismissed at 7-1 when he made his seasonal debut going six furlongs in a $40,000 optional-claiming race April 13. Despite being ignored by the bettors, Senor Rojo rallied along the rail to win by a convincing three lengths over Golden Triumph. He appears primed for another big effort in the George Royal.

Another reason Senor Rojo paid $16 for his win opening day was that he didn’t win a race from seven starts in 2012. He is now a 7-year-old, and it was easy to think his best races were behind him. He’s been trained by Dave Forster his whole career, and the veteran trainer had a different assessment.

“He was just unlucky last year, and in three of his races he lost to Taylor Said, who won the Longacres Mile,” Forster said. “Just because he’s 7 doesn’t mean he can’t run. I’ve had a few horses that maintained their form at an old age. Taylor and Go for Glory are a couple that come to mind. Hey, I’m turning 77 next month and I seem to be doing fine.”

Forster, who looks about 20 years younger, also mentioned Wind Storm. She won the 1  1/8-mile B.C. Cup Distaff as a 6-year-old.

“She was the opposite of Rojo,” Forster said. “Everyone thought she was a sprinter, but she proved them wrong when she won the Distaff. A good horse is a good horse.”

Strong allowances on Sunday card

Sunday’s card is easily the best of the year, with decent-sized fields and a couple of interesting allowance races.

Last year’s local 2-year-old champion Proud Victor is making his 3-year-old debut in the third race. He might be the second choice behind I’m Not Gray in the 6 1/2-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds, though.

I’m Not Gray is coming off a fourth-place finish in a one-mile $80,000 optional claimer at Santa Anita, where he was claimed by owner Peter Redekop, who won the Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby last year with Second City. According to his trainer, Craig MacPherson, Redekop is on the muscle and looking for another derby winner.

“Peter is really enthusiastic right now,” MacPherson said. “I’m Not Gray worked nicely here last week, and we’ll see how he fits here.”

MacPherson was referring to I’m Not Gray’s bullet five-furlong move in 1:01 flat over a sloppy track April 19 with Richard Hamel aboard.

Trainer Brian O’Connell is using the last race, a first-level allowance race for fillies and mares that drew nine horses, as a prep for Tempered Steel, who is being pointed to the $50,000 Ross McLeod for 3-year-old fillies on May 11.

O’Connell’s wife, Joanne Todd, bought Tempered Steel for $500 after she didn’t sell at the 2011 CTHS yearling and mixed sale. She was a bargain, winning the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes and finishing second in the $100,000 Sadie Diamond Futurity.

“I thought I was being clever in finding an easy spot for her, but this came up pretty tough, especially with a stakes winner like Dance the Wind,” O’Connell said. “There was a race for 3-year-old fillies for her last weekend, but it drew seven stakes winners and it would have been forcing things a bit to have her ready for it. After watching them run, I thought I better get a race into her.”

Normandy Invasion sibling works

Next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby always draws a big crowd at Hastings, but there won’t be the same kind of buzz that was generated when local rider Mario Gutierrez rode I’ll Have Another in the 1 1/4-mile classic last year. The whole city went nuts after I’ll Have Another and Gutierrez won the race, and the roar at Hastings was deafening when they won the Preakness.

Glen Todd, Gutierrez’s mentor, doesn’t have the same emotional involvement this year, but he does have a financial interest in the race. He is hoping for a win by Normandy Invasion.

Along with Mark Dedominico, Todd purchased Normandy Invasion’s half-brother Boston Bound for $35,000 at Keeneland last year. The colt by Hard Spun impressed the clockers at Hastings when he worked three furlongs out of the gate in 36.60 seconds with Aaron Gryder aboard Thursday. He is trained by Troy Taylor.

“Troy has a great eye for a horse and picked him out for us,” Todd said. “We’ve had some substantial offers, and he is Hip No. 125 in the Barrett’s 2-year-old in training sale May 13. We’re going to decide what we’re going to do after the Kentucky Derby, though. There is a race for him here on May 11, and we might just keep him and run him there. It’s all pretty exciting.”