10/28/2004 11:00PM

Longstaff well prepared for life after 'Vixen'

Email

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - By anyone's standards, owner-trainer Tom Longstaff has had a successful year. He campaigned the sensational 4-year-old filly Dancewithavixen to another local divisional championship and there's certainly nothing wrong with his overall record of 18 wins from 91 starters, which equates to an excellent 20 percent.

There have been some low points as well, however. Dancewithavixen pulled up and was vanned off following her 7 1/2-length win in the B.C. Cup Distaff on

Aug. 2; her full brother Dancewithvictor, whom Longstaff claimed for $10,000 at Hollywood Park last year and won more than $73,000 with this year, broke down in a race July 31 and had to be put down; and his top 3-year-old at the time, Louie Downtown, was sent home with an injury after losing by a head to Lord Samarai in the B.C. Cup Stallion Stakes on Aug. 2.

Longstaff is hoping to add to the positive side of the ledger when he runs Victory Light in Sunday's Autumn Leaves, an allowance race at Hastings for 3-year-olds that haven't won a stakes.

"Actually I was hoping that by now he wouldn't be eligible to the race," said Longstaff.

Victory Light is owned by Double Down Stable, which consists of former Great Canadian Gaming Corp. board member Dan Sutherland, his father, Ross Sutherland, and Adrian Thomas, who is currently a director with GCGC, the casino company that is part-owner of Hastings. They bought Victory Light with an eye on the B.C. Derby, but the Kentucky-bred gelding couldn't keep up with runaway winner Flamethrowintexan and tired to finish sixth. He looked good winning a $50,000 optional sprint Oct. 16 and Longstaff likes the way he's coming up to Sunday's race.

"That last win was a real confidence builder," he said. "I think he'll run a big race, but I actually think he's going to be a lot better horse next year. He's a big horse but he needs to fill out, and I think the winter off will do him a lot of good."

One of the high points this year for Longstaff was getting hooked up with the owners of Victory Light, particularly Dan Sutherland.

"I think it's great to have someone like Dan involved in the business. He's new to horse racing and is very keen. I was thrilled when he bought Dancewithavixen's full sister. She's a great-looking yearling and I'm looking forward to training her next year."

Longstaff will find it hard to replace Dancewithavixen, whom he has decided to retire.

"It was a tough decision because her injury wasn't that serious and she could come back to race next year, but I would feel terrible if anything happened to her," he said. "We're going to send her to Kentucky and breed her. I've been talking with bloodstock agent Dan Kenny and he said that she makes a great match with Deputy Minister, so we'll breed her to one of his sons."

Longstaff will probably never have the kind of year he had in 2003, but said he's optimistic about the future.

"I'll always look back and remember what a great year we had, especially with Dancewithavixen," he said. "She has to be considered one of the best fillies to have ever run here. It was like being in the middle of a fantastic dream. But I'm really looking forward to next year. All of my 2-year-olds won this year, plus, I'll have Victory Light, Louie Downtown, and along with [Dancewithavixen's] sister, a couple other nicely bred 2-year-olds."

Dancewithavixen retires with earnings of $496,039. Of her 12 wins, 11 came in stakes. Her performance last year was certainly the best year any 3-year-old filly has ever had at Hastings. She won 8 races, 7 stakes, and in most of her wins, she completely dominated her opponents.

Loseth breaks collarbone

Speaking of ups and downs, jockey Chris Loseth is out for the year with a broken collarbone. According to his agent, Mike Heads, Loseth's injury occurred while he was breaking yearlings.

Jake Barton will replace Loseth as the rider for undefeated 2-year-old Notis Otis, who will make his next start in the $100,000 Ascot Graduation on Nov. 13. Notis Otis is trained by Loseth's wife, Tracy McCarthy.