10/06/2005 11:00PM

Lord Nelson can add Premiers to his legacy


VANCOUVER, British Columbia- For the past four years Lord Nelson has been the undisputed champion older horse at Hastings. At one time or another, he has won just about every stakes race on the Hastings schedule, and without a doubt when he retires he will be inducted into the British Columbia Horseracing Hall of Fame.

There is one missing accomplishment on his re""sum"e, though. He's never won the $100,000 Premier's. Next to the Grade 3 Lieutenant Governors', the 1 3/8 miles Premier's is the most important race for older horses at Hastings. Lord Nelson has had recurring problems with quarter cracks in his feet, and usually by the time the Premier's rolls along on the calendar, he has been turned out. He did run in it once, finishing second to Fancy As in 2001. This season, after winning the John Longden on June 4, Lord Nelson's feet started bothering him, and his trainer, Dino Condilenios, decided to back off with him.

Lord Nelson resurfaced in the Sir Winston Churchill Sept. 24, and for the first time since May 6, 2001, he actually finished out of the money in a race at Hastings. Still, it was a race he badly needed and it could set him up for a big effort in the Premier's next Sunday.

"If I wasn't aiming for the Premier's, I probably wouldn't have run him in the Churchill," said Condilenios. "He really wasn't as fit as I would have liked, but I didn't want to go into the Premier's off of that long of a layoff."

Lord Nelson ran a good race in the Churchill, but not surprisingly he tired after rallying into contention around the stretch turn.

"I was pleased with the race," said Condilenios. "I didn't expect him to win. He was giving weight to a very good field of horses, and considering how long he's been off he ran well."

Condilenios, 34, has trained Lord Nelson throughout his career and considers himself lucky to be associated with such an exceptional horse.

"Just think about it," he said. "For the last five years, he's been the horse to beat in every race he's been in at Hastings. A lot of very good trainers that have been in this business for a long time haven't been as lucky to have a horse like him in their barn."

An 8-year-old homebred gelding owned by Russell and Lois Bennett, Lord Nelson has started only 33 times in his career. He's won 16 races, has 9 second-place finishes, has hit the board 28 times, and has total earnings of $637,801. Condilenios thinks that part of the reason Lord Nelson shows up every time is that he has been lightly raced.

"His problems with his feet have limited his starts, and he's a nervous horse, so we've never raced him in the winter," he said. "I would have loved to try him on the turf, but he's a real creature of habit. The first time we shipped him to Emerald for the Longacres Mile, he was drenched by the time he got to the paddock, so I knew he wasn't going to run very well. He was fine the next year we went and ran a lot better race."

Actually, Lord Nelson ran a very good race. He hopped at the start, had a brutal trip, and still finished third to Grade 1 stakes winner Sky Jack. That was in 2003, and it was the last time Lord Nelson ran outside of Hastings.

Condilenios thinks that Lord Nelson would have been a great horse even if he had ended up in another jurisdiction.

"He's such a smart horse that he just does what he has to do," he said. "He always rises to the competition, and I think he could compete with Grade 1 horses if he was based somewhere like Southern California."

With Quiet Cash not running and Flamethrowintexan questionable at 1 3/8 miles, Lord Nelson once again will be the horse to beat when he runs in the Premier's next Sunday.

"He's really starting to come around," said Condilenios. "I plan on giving him a good work this weekend and he should be set.

City council okays step toward slots

Hastings cleared a major hurdle in its long ordeal to have slot machines installed at the track. On Tuesday, the Vancouver City Council voted to accept the Public Benefits Package that Hastings was offering as part of the deal for slots. That was the final vote by the council and clears the way for the application to go forward to the Development Permit Board, which meets on Oct. 24.

If the Development Permit Board approves the application, management at Hastings expects that the slots will be up and running in time for the next racing season, which begins in April.

Some of the benefits that Hastings committed to are paying $100,000 a year to a legacy fund, and providing funding for 44 day care spaces, a groom school, and an expanded learning center. Hastings will also host and contribute $50,000 a year to local charities.