05/26/2005 11:00PM

Henson in driver's seat as Regal Pusher tries stakes

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - It's not unusual for trainer Steve Henson to have a 3-year-old filly entered in a stakes race. After all, he's been the trainer for the powerful Canmor Farms stable for the past nine years, and Canmor has focused on building up its breeding stock with well-bred fillies from yearling sales in the United States.

However, Henson and the Canmor team, which includes owner Ole Nielsen, trainer Tracy McCarthy, and her husband, jockey Chris Loseth, amicably parted ways this year, and Henson is looking forward to making his own decisions.

One decision he has made is to run Regal Pusher against a very good Slewpast in the Emerald Stakes on Sunday.

Regal Pusher has started twice this year, winning her maiden by 6 3/4 lengths on opening day and coming right back to beat $50,000 optional company on May 7.

"I would rather run her in a nonwinners-of-three," he said. "But it's not very likely that type of race will fill. So we'll give her a shot. She's a very nice filly, but if she can't cut it with stakes company we'll look for other spots. I'm not going to have her finishing third and fourth against stakes company all year."

Henson didn't really think Regal Pusher was stakes material when he brought her to the track this winter.

"If someone had told me she was going to be running in a stakes in May, I would have said they were crazy," he said. "But each time we do something with her she gets better. She's gotten more professional with each start, and actually I think she'll be a lot better filly when she stretches out."

Henson said he enjoyed his time with Canmor, but the time came for him to go out on his own. "It was fun being part of a great team, but now when I make a decision, it's my decision," he said. "I was a bit nervous about going out on my own at first, but now I'm ready for it."

Another difference for Henson is that he'll be claiming horses again. Canmor either bred or purchased its stock. When Henson haltered Ohlund for $11,000 on May 7, it was the first horse he had claimed in more than 10 years.

"I always loved that part of the game," he said. "If you're claiming horses, you really have to be on your toes. I won't be claiming that many. I really don't want a large stable - just a few horses right now is perfect."

It's fitting that the horse Henson claimed was named after a Vancouver Canucks hockey player, Mattias Ohlund. Henson is vice president of the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association and coaches a couple of minor hockey teams.

"My family, the horses, and hockey pretty much sum up my life," he said. "When I'm not here, I'm either at home or in a hockey rink. I probably should have claimed Orr, though. He won the race, and of course Bobby Orr was one of the greatest players ever."

Henson is happy to be on his own, but he had nothing but good things to say about the people involved with Canmor.

"They've been like a second family to me," he said. "Tracy helped raise my son Robbie when he was at the track, and Chris taught him how to gallop horses. Robbie is 16 and he's galloping horses for me now. Ole taught me how the business end of things work. I'm stabled right next to them, and if they ever need any help, I'm there for them."

Virtuous Lady has license to improve

One filly who might give Slewpast a run for her money in the Emerald is Virtuous Lady. She broke a step slowly and didn't really get to run her race when she finished third to Slewpast in the Supernaturel, and she is back in the hands of trainer Steve Bryant, who is subbing for Michael Turner.

Turner was suspended for 15 days after his horse R. Associate tested positive for the expectorant guaifenesin when he finished second to Roscoe Pito in an allowance race May 14. Bryant was Virtuous Lady's trainer when she shipped here from Calder last year, but he became the racing manager for owner Ross McLeod over the winter.

Steward Wayne Russell said that Turner was using guaifenesin to treat a couple of his 2-year-olds when it was inadvertently administered to R. Associate.

Gomez Award given to Krasner

Local hall of fame jockey Sam Krasner was awarded the Avelino Gomez Memorial Award, given to a rider who has made a significant contribution to the sport in Canada. Krasner was a Jockeys' Guild representative for many years before retiring from riding this year. He is the second leading rider in all-time wins and stakes wins at Hastings.

Krasner is currently a jockey agent for Jake Barton and Anthony Stephen.