05/06/2004 11:00PM

Jockey Hoverson right back where he started

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After a 12-year absence from the Pacific Northwest, jockey Chad Hoverson has returned to ride at Hastings. Hoverson, 50, began his riding career in 1976 at Hastings, known then as Exhibition Park. He won his first race aboard a cheap claimer trained by Mike Drozdowski named Hard Choice.

Hoverson became a solid journeyman rider in this area and rode at Longacres and Hastings. Among his accomplishments were wins in the 1982 British Columbia Derby aboard Travelling Victor and a sweep of the 1987 Longacres Derby, B.C. Derby, and Premiers' aboard Irish Bear. He also won the Premiers' aboard Irish Bear the following year.

One of the problems facing jockeys in Washington and British Columbia then was the short racing season, which began in April and finished in October. Hoverson, who had just separated from his wife and had taken over raising his son Brandon, was looking for a place in which he could plant himself. He ended up moving to Kentucky in 1992. There, he rode races and also worked as a construction foreman for about five years.

"I liked the way the racing schedule was," he said. "I could stay in one spot and [Brandon] could stay in one school."

Hoverson rode at just about every track in the Midwest. What brought him back to Vancouver was an offer from Sid Belzberg, the owner of Budget Stables. Belzberg has horses in Southern California with trainer Kathy Walsh, and he's recently refocused his attention on racing at Hastings with a strong stable under trainer Janet Armstrong. Hoverson ran into Walsh when she was at Keeneland saddling a horse she had brought out for a stakes race.

"I just wanted to say hello and see how everyone was doing back here," he said. "The next thing I know, they're making me a very good offer to come back and ride for them at Hastings. They wanted me there in four days. Luckily, I convinced them into giving me a little more time."

Hoverson got off to a good start at the meet. He didn't have all of his paperwork finished in time to ride opening weekend, but on his first mount, the following week, he finished second with Cariboo Prospector in a 3-year-old allowance race. Hoverson then won with Wild Glory in his third race for the Belzberg-Armstrong team.

In addition to riding first call for Budget, Hoverson has picked up quite a few mounts for the powerful Dave Forster Stable.

Wilson also returns

David Wilson has also returned to ride full-time at Hastings. Wilson, who has been the leading rider at Hastings four times, spent last season riding in Alberta. He currently sits in second place in the standings, with seven wins. Family considerations were partly the reason for his returning to Hastings.

"It's tough when the oldest is a teenager and giving my wife a hard time," he said. "Plus they added a couple of million to the purses. Besides, I haven't been gone that long."

Roscoe Pito caught infection in George Royal

Trainer John Snow said that Roscoe Pito had caught a mild infection when he finished fifth in the George Royal Stakes last Sunday.

"I knew something wasn't right," said Snow. "He was a dead horse going down the backstretch, and they weren't going that fast. He's fine now and was very eager when he galloped at the farm Thursday. He'll probably run back in the Hong Kong Jockey Club [May 23]."

Elana d'Amour could also make her next start in the Hong Kong Jockey Club. Elana d'Amour came out of her third-place finish to Dancewithavixen in the Sun Handicap in excellent shape. Her trainer, Brian Giesbrecht, is looking for an allowance race for Elana d'Amour, but he's also considering taking on colts and geldings.

"I'm certainly not going to ship her to Emerald again, and I need a place to run her," he said. "She ran a big race [in the Sun], and I was very proud of the way she hung in there after setting fast fractions."

No plans to fill top positions

According to Garth Essery, vice president and chief operating officer of Hastings, there are currently no plans to replace former chief executive officer and president Phil Heard, who recently resigned. The director of racing position, formerly held by Debbie Peebles, will also go unfilled.