09/25/2003 11:00PM

Leong, Yoonevano form winning team


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Owner-breeder Wally Leong of Canyon Farms accomplished a rare feat with back-to-back wins in the Jack Diamond Futurity. Last year he won it with Illusive Force. This year his Lord Samarai overcame a rough beginning to beat Proud Son by a half-length. He bred both horses and they're both by the same impeccably bred stallion Yoonevano, whom Leong owns a portion of.

Yoonevano is by Seattle Slew and is out of the mare Rowdy Angel. That makes him a half-brother to Grade 1 winners Demons Begone and Pine Bluff. His half-sister Angel Fever produced Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Not bad for this neck of the woods.

According to Leong, Yoonevano was born prematurely and was smallish, which helps account for his being sold as a yearling for just $75,000, cheap for a son of Seattle Slew. He never made it to the races though.

"He developed a slab-fracture," said Leong. "His trainer, Bill Badgett, said that he had a lot of potential, though."

Leong wasn't really looking for a stallion, but his veterinarian, Sheila McDonald, wanted to buy something cheap to use as a teaser. Leong convinced her that if she wanted a stallion she would be better off getting one with good bloodlines. So off they went to Keeneland where they purchased Yoonevano privately.

"He's off to a good start," said Leong. "He only bred a few mares his first couple of seasons but last year he bred 59, most of which are in foal. His horses are running so well that we're doubling the stud fee to $4,000."

Leong could use the extra revenue. He lost much of his fencing and a hay barn in the recent fires that ravaged the interior of British Columbia.

"We had to move 54 horses to Russ and Lois Bennett's farm, and I really don't know what we would have done without their help."

Leong has had a good year as an owner. He won stakes races with Illusive Force, Stratoplan, and, of course, Lord Samarai. He feels it could have been a lot better though.

"Sending Illusive Force to Woodbine was very expensive," he said. "It wasn't just the cost of shipping but also what he might have made running here. Plus, Stratoplan had a freak injury that kept him out of the B.C. Derby and I think he would have had a big shot. But that's life."

Leong gave much credit for his successes to his trainer, Rob VanOverschot.

"We've developed a good system. We do the groundwork at home and then turn them over to Rob, who does a great job," he said. "We've clicked with Rob and we plan to stay with him."

Big fields, good betting on Sunday

Although there are no stakes races at Hastings on Sunday, it's turned out to be one of the best betting cards of the year. There's not one maiden race and full fields are the norm. One of the reasons for the full fields is new blood from Emerald, and it's amazing what just a few extra horses can do to enhance a racing card.

One of the perennial leading trainers at Longacres and Emerald Downs, Frank Lucarelli, has shipped 20 horses to Hastings.

Lucarelli had another good year at Emerald, finishing second behind Tim McCanna in the trainers' standings with 39 wins from 243 starts. He was the leading trainer there in 1999.

"I've had good years but I just keep finishing second to Tim," he said. "Actually, I wasn't even in the top 10 heading into the final two months but my horses really came around at the end of the meet. Hopefully, they'll run as well up there."

In the past, Lucarelli has gone south after the close of Emerald but because of the ill health of his son Tony he has decided to stay home. Tony became partially paralyzed after undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

"I can come up for the weekends and be at home during the week," Lucarelli said. "Plus, Tony is doing very well right now. Even though he's in a wheelchair he seems as happy as ever. I just don't want to be away from home for any length of time."

One of the problems Lucarelli envisions with running horses at Hastings is figuring out where to spot them.

"With the exchange rate it's just hard to say where they fit in," he said. "I'll know more about it after they run a couple of times."