05/27/2004 11:00PM

Keizer moves in and hits ground running


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Jockey Lorne Keizer had a lot working against him when he rode his first race at Hastings last Saturday. He had just gotten off a seven-hour flight from Toronto and had never galloped a horse over the Vancouver oval. In fact, he didn't even have any of his equipment. His tack, helmet, boots, and other gear were still packed away at the house of Anthony Stephen, a fellow rider and friend.

"I didn't really plan on riding Saturday," Keizer said. "I just went in to hang out and meet the other riders. Basically I just went in to check the place out."

When Felipe Valdez booked off a couple of mounts and 23-1 longshot More Shenanigans came open, Keizer was more than happy to pick up the mount.

"The next thing I knew, people were throwing stuff at me," he said. "Mark Lawson lent me his pants, and I think I used Anthony's helmet. It all happened so fast I'm not sure who gave me what."

The only thing Keizer was concerned about was where the finish line was, and he just about got it right, missing by a nose to 8-5 favorite Planet Kind.

One noticeable thing about Keizer's first ride here was the choice he made at the quarter pole. Going wide around the tight turns at Hastings can be very costly, and when Keizer had the choice of going around a couple of horses or splitting them, he chose the latter. That was a pretty brave decision for a jockey who didn't know either the horses or the riders against whom he was competing.

Keizer, 33, was born in Trinidad and was seventh in the jockey standings at Santa Rosa - and rode three winners on his last day there - before coming to Vancouver. He heard about Hastings from Stephen.

"Anthony told me how nice it was out here, so I thought I would come out and see for myself," he said. "He was right. It is beautiful out here, and the climate is similar to Ireland. I rode there for three months a couple of years ago."

Keizer was in heavy demand Friday morning, and he didn't appear to mind all of the work he was getting.

"Back home it's a lot different," he said. "You spend a lot of time exercising and getting to know the horses you are going to ride in the races. Here, the trainers let the exercise riders do most of the galloping. Right now, I'm just trying to get to know everyone, and hopefully they'll give me a chance on their horses."

The tight turns at Hastings shouldn't be a problem for Keizer. He said the turns at some of the tracks in Barbados were much sharper than at Hastings, and he also was very happy with the track surface here.

"It's one of the best surfaces I've ever ridden on," he said. "There are no faults on the track. It's just a great track."

Keizer tacks a little more than 100 pounds. He also picked up 35-1 shot Dovedale in the last race last Saturday, and at the top of the stretch, it looked like Dovedale had a chance to win. She tired in the late stretch to finish third, but she helped key a $25,941.90 superfecta.

Keizer has eight mounts Sunday, and at least two of them, Keenbridge Fun in the fourth and Eternal Force in the fifth, should be among the favorites.

"I know it's tough to show up in the middle of a meet," he said. "I'm just thankful that the trainers here are giving me a chance to ride."

Serna returns to riding after injury

Fernando Serna is back riding this weekend. Serna was injured at the end of the

2003 season and tried to come back when the meet opened in April.

"I just wasn't ready," he said. "I'm completely healed now, and I'm glad to be back riding."

Lord Nelson won't run until July

Lord Nelson came out of his win in the Hong Kong Jockey Club in excellent shape and will make his next start in the $100,000 Lieutenant Governors' on July 1, trainer Dino Condilenios said.

"He's had two hard races, so I want to give him some time off before he runs again," he said. "He's an easy horse to bring up to a race, and we were successful using the same schedule last year."

* Hastings stewards have taken Alan Cuthbertson off all of his mounts pending a hearing Saturday morning. Cuthbertson had been riding under a conditional license that was granted last September. The stewards would not comment on the reasons for the hearing.