07/08/2004 11:00PM

McLeod's latest buy looks like a winner


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer Steve Bryant wasn't kidding when he said owner Ross McLeod was planning on buying quality horses and racing them at Hastings. McLeod, who is the CEO of Great Canadian Gaming Corp., the parent company of Hastings, was successful with his first purchase, Tobe Suave. McLeod purchased Tobe Suave out of Woodbine and brought him to Hastings, where Tobe Suave won the Burnaby on July 1. His latest buy, 4-year-old filly Hanselina, looks like a good one, as well.

Hanselina will be facing a tough opponent in Dancewithavixen in the Senate Appointee Handicap on Sunday, but the last time Hanselina ran on dirt, she beat Holiday Lady, who was third in the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland last year. Holiday Lady followed her second to Hanselina with a win in an allowance race at Belmont on June 27.

On paper, Hanselina looks like the winner of the Senate Appointee, but she has a lot to overcome. A New York-bred, Hanselina has never been out of her home state, and it's hard to say how she'll handle the trip to the west coast. The first time she will set foot on the Hastings surface will be Saturday morning. Hanselina has been training and running at Belmont, and the five-furlong Hastings oval is less than half the size of the 1 1/2-mile Belmont strip. Besides the tighter turns, who knows how Hanselina will handle a completely different surface?

Bryant says he is pretty confident.

"We sent her out for a strong gallop at Belmont on Thursday morning, and she went like a bear," he said. "She was very impressive winning on the dirt, and she's coming off of a route on the turf, so she should be ready."

Bryant said that they had looked at six different fillies before settling on Hanselina.

"We had them all checked over by our vet, and Hanselina came out the best," he said. "She beat a Grade 1 filly in her latest win, and last fall she beat a filly that went on to win a Grade 2 race. I showed her trainer in New York, Dominic Galluscio, the past performances of the horses she'll be running against here, and he said just walk her off the plane and put a bridle on her. We feel pretty good about her."

Bryant might have missed Hanselina's most impressive race, a nonwinners-of-two allowance race last July at Belmont, where Hanselina was second to Passing Shot. Passing Shot went on to win her next two starts, including the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga.

Gratitude Attack paying off fast

Bryant also says he feels pretty good about Gratitude Attack, another recent purchase by McLeod. A 4-year-old Kentucky-bred, Gratitude Attack has won his last two starts, and the horse he beat by 3 1/4 lengths in an allowance race at Monmouth on June 20, Presidentialaffair, came back to set the track record for a mile and 70 yards in the Skip Away Stakes at Monmouth on July 5.

"His value has gone way up since we bought him," said Bryant. "He's not going to start until July 25 in the Mt. Rainier at Emerald, though. He lost a little weight in the ship out, but he was bucking and squealing this morning and seems to be back on track."

Gratitude Attack started nine times as a 2-year-old, and after being beaten by double digits in most of his races, he finally won his maiden at the Meadowlands by a nose for $12,500. Gratitude Attack was turned over to trainer Stephen Mick as a 3-year-old, and the transformation has been dramatic. He made his first start for Mick in late August, and since then he's won seven races. In his last two wins, Gratitude Attack posted triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, and as a blossoming 4-year-old, his best races could be ahead of him.

* The Vancouver City Council will start public hearings July 15 to hear arguments regarding the Hastings application to install 600 slot machines at the track. Currently there are over 85 speakers lined up, and the process will likely take up at least two sessions of Council. If the application is successful, purses are expected to go up by at least 50 percent, and additional racing days will likely be added next year.