07/10/2013 2:43PM

Hastings: Ole's Miss readies for stakes debut Sunday in Boulevard Casino

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Two-year-olds at Hastings will get their first crack at stakes money Sunday. If the races hold up, the $50,000 Boulevard Casino for fillies looks a bit more interesting than the $50,000 New Westminster for colts and geldings. But there is a virus circulating through the backstretch at Hastings, and there is no guarantee that the horses entered in the two races will be able to avoid catching it.

“So far, so good, but subject to change at any time,” said trainer Tracy McCarthy, who is expecting a big effort from Ole’s Miss in the Boulevard Casino.

Ole’s Miss showed a lot of potential June 2, when she debuted in a maiden special weight race going 3 1/2 furlongs. She broke well enough but then got squeezed back just past the three-eighths pole and lost any chance of winning such a short race. She didn’t give up, though, and rallied to finish third.

One of the things McCarthy likes about the horse is her attitude, and she wasn’t surprised that Ole’s Miss didn’t throw in the towel after being forced to take up.

“She is a very confident filly, and nothing seems to bother her,” McCarthy said. “She has a great attitude about having horses around her, and she doesn’t care where you place her. She just loves the game. She just marches down to the racetrack, and you can put her anywhere you want when you work her.”

Ole’s Miss suffered a minor setback after she worked a very strong six furlongs in 1:13.60 on June 30. According to McCarthy, she “blew an abscess,” but the veteran trainer was able to clear it up quickly.

“It only set her back a few days,” McCarthy said. “We took the shoe off, picked it out, and she was good. We did miss a work, but she is doing great right now, and she worked a nice half-mile this morning.”

Ole’s Miss worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds Wednesday, and the way she did it impressed the Hastings clockers. With Scott Williams aboard, she looked very comfortable posting identical quarters of 24.40 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.60.

“She’s definitely ready to go,” McCarthy said. “When she was pulling up at the wire, another horse was just starting their work, and she wanted to take off after them.”

Ole’s Miss is an Ontario-bred but was purchased by Ole Nielsen for $19,000 at Keeneland last September. Nielsen, who runs under the stable name Canmor Farms, said he had nothing to do with naming her.

“Nobody believes me when I tell them I didn’t notice her name until they brought her into the sales ring,” Nielsen said. “I wrestled with changing her name, but the old guys say it is bad luck to change their name, so I’ll just leave it alone.”

What Nielsen liked about Ole’s Miss was her sire and conformation.

“I think Officer is an underrated sire, and I loved the way she looked,” Nielsen said. “I think she has a chance to be a nice horse, and I’m willing to put up with getting ribbed about her name if she does.”

Track cancels two cards

A shortage of horses, combined with a virus circulating through the Hastings backstretch, has caused Hastings to cancel cards on Friday, July 26, and Saturday, Aug. 3.

The decision was made to ensure a strong card for B.C. Cup Day on Monday, Aug. 5. The B.C. Cup offers six stakes races restricted to British Columbia-breds and is one of the biggest days at Hastings every year.

Dave Milburn, president of the local Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, agreed with the decision to cancel the days.

“I think we have enough horses on the grounds, but not enough healthy ones right now with the virus going around,” Milburn said. “We just did a survey, and we found that approximately 25 percent of the horses on the grounds are sick or coughing. These things burn themselves out, so we should be okay in a few weeks, but I think it’s not only prudent but also necessary to cancel the days.”

Trainer William McLaren echoed a lot of the frustration among horsemen at Hastings. He has a 2-year-old and a 3-year-old in his barn who came down with the virus.

“It took me three months to get them ready to run, and I was planning on entering them this weekend, but they both got sick,” he said. “The virus is going right through Barn M.”

There are no plans to make up the lost days.