05/18/2010 11:00PM

Most Hastings purses take 5 percent slice

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - After just nine days of racing, Hastings is cutting purses by 5 percent. The bottom-level purses will remain the same, but purses for $12,500 open claimers and above will take the hit.

The reason for the adjustment is threefold, according to track officials. Firstly, the total per-race average handle of $65,151 is down roughly 11 percent, and the ontrack live handle is down roughly 5 percent per race.

Also, the newly formed Horseracing Industry Management Committee, which allocates funds to both the Thoroughbred and Standardbreds, made an accounting error of $1.6 million when it made up its budget for the 2010 season. A part of that allocation went to purses at Hastings.

The third reason is the value of the U.S. dollar. Wagering from the United States makes up about a third of the total live handle at Hastings. Last year the dollar was worth $1.22 Canadian. This year that number has fallen to $1.04. Every dollar bet from south of the border is worth considerably less.

The average field size has increased from 8.0 horses per- race to 8.24, but the handle hasn't followed suit.

Raj Mutti, general manager at Hastings, said the attendance has held its own.

"We don't charge admission so we don't have exact numbers," he said. "But our food and beverage numbers are solid, and that tells us we are getting the people out. Actually the weather has played a part in the numbers as well. On sunny days we've done quite well, but when it was cold and wet, we were down considerably."

Hastings has focused a lot of its marketing efforts at getting new people to the track. It seems to be paying off.

"Our attendance for the first few weeks has been excellent, and we are getting a lot of younger and new faces coming out," said Mutti. "But, they don't have a lot of experience betting on horse racing. We are working at educating them, and hopefully that will transpire into a better handle. Some of them are betting two or three horses to show in each race and they are basically cancelling themselves out."

According to the track's director or racing, Paul Ryneveld, one of the anomalies with the wagering this year is that the cheaper races are proving to be more popular than the better races, regardless of field size. In a move to keep some of the bottom-level horses at Hastings, the bottom-level maiden race will be dropped to $3,000 on July 1. Around that time there is usually an exodus to Assiniboia Downs and Northlands Park of horses who can't compete here.

"We are hoping to keep some of them here," said Ryneveld. "If we can offer full fields with some of our cheaper horses, horsemen will also have a better chance of running their better horses when they need to."

Friesen has extensive surgery

According to officials at Hastings jockey April Friesen underwent five hours of surgery to successfully repair vertebrae she broke in her neck in a spill in the last race on Saturday. Friesen also broke her ribs, punctured a lung and injured vertebrae in her lower back. She will be in a halo brace for at least eight weeks.

The other two riders involved in the spill, Ismael Mosqueira and Isaias Cardenas are both riding Friday. Frank Fuentes, aboard Superior Straits who drifted out at the top of the stretch and caused the accident, has been suspended by the stewards for two days.

Barroby honored to be honored

Trainer Frank Barroby, 66, was thrilled to find out he was voted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame this week.

"I knew I was in the running but I never thought I would make it," said Barroby. "It feels great to be honored like that."

Barroby, the only person to be a leading rider and trainer at Hastings, was inducted into the British Columbia Horse Racing Hall of Fame last year.

He is the first trainer based at Hastings to be inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame. Surprisingly, his brother Harold Barroby, a 10-time leading trainer here and the all-time leader in wins and stakes wins in British Columbia, is not a member.

Arkhill keeps impressing

Trainer Craig MacPherson reported that Arkhill came out of his win in a classified allowance race on Saturday in good shape and would probably come back in a similar race. Arkhill was making his first start since Nov. 2, 2008. He has now won 8 of his 10 starts.

"He is an amazing little horse," said MacPherson. "I'll keep him at this level for now. I don't think he's ready to take on the big bad wolf just yet."

MacPherson was referring to 2009 local horse of the year Teide, who dominated his opponents when he ran in the George Royal in his first start this year.