05/27/2011 11:27AM

Hastings: Pop Artist on a roll


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Pop Artist and Arkhill look like the main players in a $25,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up that will serve as Sunday’s feature at Hastings. The 6 1/2-furlong sprint drew five horses and goes as the third race.

Pop Artist will be looking to make it three wins in a row for the same price and he easily handled Arkhill in their last two meetings. Nonetheless, Arkhill is taking the blinkers off for the first time in his 21-race career and he looked very sharp when he worked three furlongs in a rapid 34 seconds May 19.

Trained by Dino Condilenios, Pop Artist has been a gem of consistency since arriving at Hastings as part of a package purchased by Swift Thoroughbreds Inc. from Darley Stable in 2009. He won his first two starts for Condilenios in first-level $50,000 optional races and in 10 starts at Hastings he has won five times. He has never finished worse than fourth in Vancouver, and in his latest race, May 1, he took over the race early and then easily repelled a bid by Arkhill at the top of the stretch. Once again he figures to be a short price with Richard Hamel retaining the mount.

Arkhill is looking to regain the form that saw him win six of his first seven starts, including the 2008 Alberta Derby at Stampede Park for trainer Craig MacPherson. He closed out his 3-year-old season with a win over older horses in an allowance race, but he missed all of 2009 with an injury. Despite the lengthy layoff he was able to win a $50,000 optional race when he returned to the races in mid-May last year, but that was his last win. He could be coming up to a big effort with the blinkers coming off and he is clearly the main threat to Pop Artist.

Slew’s Boy, fifth to Pop Artist May 1, figures to move forward in his second start of the year for trainer Robbie Anderson. He had a slight advantage over Pop Artist after the first quarter-mile but couldn’t keep up going down the backstretch and was in full retreat by the time they hit the top of the stretch. Slew’s Boy didn’t win in seven starts last year but he finished off the board just once and in his best performance he finished second to Almost Time in the B.C. Cup Sprint.