11/18/2004 12:00AM

J V Bennett makes his 100th start


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - J V Bennett won't be the betting choice, but the fan favorite will get his usual warm reception when he goes on post parade for his 100th career start in the feature race at Hastings Saturday.

An 11-year-old gelding, J V Bennett was no secret when made his debut, winning as the odds-on favorite in a maiden special weight race at Turf Paradise in 1995. He won the Tempe Handicap the following April, but for the most part J V Bennett has been a consistent allowance and mid-priced claiming horse.

J V Bennett, who is owned by Gary McNeil, arrived at Hastings in 1996 and he made an immediate impression by winning an open allowance race by two lengths. He has won at least one race in each year since, and 31 of his 34 career wins have been at Hastings. He was claimed for $32,000 out of a win at Hollywood Park by trainer Steve Bryant, but since 1999 he has been mostly ensconced in Peter Stephen's shed row. Whenever Stephen talks about J V Bennett he gets very emotional, and there's an obvious lift in his demeanor.

"It's been a privilege to be associated with a horse like him," said Stephen. "He's got a great personality and you just don't find horses that put out like he has for such a long period of time. This will be his last start for the year and I don't see why he won't come back and run next year."