11/25/2005 1:00AM

Last slots details nearly hammered out


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Sunday will be the last day of racing at Hastings this year and it will also be the start of a new era.

When racing resumes next year, Hastings will likely be undergoing renovations to allow for the installation of 600 slot machines. Although the machines have been legislatively approved, city staff and management at Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, the track's operator, are still working out the final details related to the operating agreement. The City of Vancouver owns the track, and Great Canadian leases the facility. There are also issues that were brought up when the Development Permit Board approved the application for slots, including parking problems, and they need to be resolved.

According to city staff and management at Hastings, there are no issues that are deal-breakers, though, and everyone is confident that slots will be up and running sometime next year. Nevertheless, it will probably take a few weeks before all of the details are finalized, and while management at Hastings was hoping to have the slots in before live racing resumes next April, that appears unlikely at this point.

"We're chugging along, getting these things ironed out," said Chuck Keeling, Great Canadian's vice president of racing. "We're hoping to start construction as soon as possible."

Keeling has been through this before. He oversaw the installation of slots at Fraser Downs, a harness track in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.

With the added revenue from the slots, the future of horse racing in British Columbia looks secure, and that is a big relief to everyone involved in the local industry.

Quiet Cash a challenge to Lord Nelson

With the future looking bright, let's reverse directions and take a look at the recently concluded season. Here is an educated guess at which horses are likely going to receive hardware at the annual Industry Awards dinner that will be held next spring.

Quiet Cash, trained by Terry Jordan, is the leading contender for the best older horse in the province. He won just a single stakes race, but he probably would have won the Grade 3 Lieutenant Governors' with a fair start, and he was also unlucky to lose the Longacres Mile.

Lord Nelson is the only older male to have won more than one stakes race at the meet, but both of his wins came in the spring and he missed most of the year because of quarter cracks. At 8, he has won the award four years in a row. He could be named top sprinter.

Trainer Janet Armstrong did a great job of getting Pretty Meadow to stretch out to win the Delta Colleen, and with wins in the Strawberry Morn and Cover Girl, Pretty Meadow should get the nod for older filly or mare. She finished third in the Grade 3 Ballerina Breeders' Cup as well.

Spaghetti Mouse and Alabama Rain are the only possibilities in the 3-year-old colts and geldings division. Spaghetti Mouse deserves the title. He was a very impressive winner of the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby, and he finished in front of Alabama Rain in three of their four meetings. Spaghetti Mouse is trained by Gary Demorest, who will be the leading trainer for the first time.

Monashee is a lock to be named champion 3-year-old filly. She won the Breeders' Cup Oaks and beat older fillies and mares in the Ballerina. The only other horse to accomplish that was Delta Colleen, and she is included on everyone's list of the best females ever to have raced at Hastings. Monashee, who is trained by Tracy McCarthy, has to be considered the leading candidate for local horse of the year as well.

Bound to Be M V P might have been the best 2-year-old at Hastings this year, but he was sent home following his easy win in the Ladnesian July 10, and although he was undefeated in three starts, he missed all of the major races in the fall.

Among male juveniles, it is a coin-toss between Regal Request and Lukin Awesome, with the edge going to Regal Request because of his win in the Ascot Graduation, which is the only middle-distance stakes race for 2-year-olds at the meet. It is also the richest race for juveniles, and Regal Request, who is trained by Allan Jack, was the top money-earner with $140,615.

Langara Lass is home and cooled out as the 2-year-old filly champ. She dominated her division with three impressive stakes wins. Her easy win in the 1 1/16-mile Fantasy sealed the deal. She is trained by David Forster, and he also trained the dam of Langara Lass, Capilano. As well as winning the Fantasy, Capilano went on to win the Washington Oaks.

The top sprinter could go to either Columbia Moon or Lord Nelson.

The most impressive riding performance this year was by apprentice jockey Justin Stein. He has certainly come a long way since his first official mount last year. He won with 25 percent of his mounts at the meet and is the leading rider in a romp. He also set a record for the most wins by an apprentice at Hastings and is the leading percentage rider in the country.