07/19/2013 1:41PM

Hastings: Stormy Canuck is Henson's best hope in B.C. Cup


VANCOUVER, British Columbia – B.C. Cup Day is just around the corner on Aug. 5, and it is hard to find anybody more enthusiastic about the yearly showcase for British Columbia-breds at Hastings than trainer Steve Henson.

“B.C.-breds, it’s what it we are all here for,” Henson said. “I look forward to it every year.”

Headed by the $75,000 B.C. Cup Classic for 3-year-olds and up, B.C. Cup Day features six stakes restricted to horses bred in British Columbia. Until last year when it was supplanted by a strong B.C. Derby card, it had been the biggest day in terms of attendance and handle since its inception in 1995.

Henson plans to run three horses, and none will be among the favorites. He said he thinks he has his best chance of winning with Stormy Canuck, who will run in the 1 1/8-mile Classic. Henson claimed him on behalf of Rick Hunter for $25,000 on July 7. Stormy Canuck finished second in a 6 1/2-furlong sprint and last year finished fourth in the Classic.

Last year’s Classic was won by Taylor Said, who came back 13 days later to win the Grade 3 Longacres Mile. This year’s Classic won’t be nearly as tough. The top handicap horse at Hastings, Herbie D, is a B.C.-bred, but he is skipping the Classic and using the Mount Rainier at Emerald Downs on Sunday as his final prep for the Longacres Mile on Aug. 18.

“We claimed Stormy Canuck specifically to run in the Classic,” Henson said. “He’s a solid, hard-knocking horse that runs long and short. I think he has a chance to do something in the Classic.”

Henson is pointing Eleadora to the 1 1/8-mile Distaff for fillies and mares and Uniqua to the 1 1/16-mile Dogwood for 3-year-old fillies. Both races are worth $50,000.

“Neither of them belong in stakes races, but I’m going to take a shot with them anyway,” Henson said. “They won’t win, but they will run good and be on the board.”

Eleadora is coming off a third-place finish in a $10,000 claiming race going 1 1/16 miles for the first time and figures to improve in her second try going around three turns. Uniqua also finished third sprinting in a $15,000 claiming race and will be trying three turns for the first time in the Dogwood. She is certainly bred for the distance, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see her run a big race in her first route attempt.

The main thing Henson is concerned about is keeping them healthy. His barn hasn’t been immune to the virus that is going through the Hastings backstretch.

“They haven’t, but it seems like all of my horses have gotten it,” Henson said. “It has been tough on everybody.”

One of the horses Henson trains who has been able to avoid catching the virus is the 2-year-old filly Dark Destiny, who is running in a six-furlong maiden special weight race Sunday. Henson bought her and three other horses at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale at Timonium, Md., in May.

Henson also took in the Preakness on the trip.

“It was like a dream come true,” Henson said. “The Preakness was great, but the sale was even better. It’s what I do. I love to look at horses and I got to rub elbows with the top trainers in North America. When we were standing side by side with guys like Steve Asmussen and Bob Baffert looking at a horse I knew we weren’t getting that one. We had to dig deep and find ones that slipped between the cracks.”

Henson bought Dark Destiny for Dennis Dale, who races under the stable name Deltin Stable. Henson was quite surprised the trip actually came about.

“He asked me about a year ago if I wanted to go to the sale and of course I said, ‘Oh yeah, okay,’ ” Henson said. “Then he called me a week before the sale and said we’re going. I was thrilled.”

Henson also was pretty excited they were able to buy Dark Destiny for $25,000. Part of the reason they got her so cheaply was her relatively slow breeze over Timonium’s training track at the under-tack show before the sale.

“To get a Midnite Lute for $25,000 is pretty much unheard of,” Henson said. “I watched her on tape, and she breezed in 11 and change. Anything that went in 10 sold for over a hundred grand and if they went in 11 they sold for anything. The first day I looked at her, I knew she was the one we wanted.”

Henson said he thinks Dark Destiny will be better as a 3-year-old but won’t be surprised if she runs a good race in her debut Sunday. She drew the rail, which can be a bit intimidating for a 2-year-old making her first start. Henson isn’t too concerned about the post position, though.

“She does everything right and she’s bomb proof,” Henson said. “Of course, anything coming out of a sale like that is pretty well schooled. She’s also fast as hell coming out of the gate.”