04/20/2005 11:00PM

New influx of money sends handle soaring

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - With California wagering outlets now betting into the Hastings pools, there wasn't much doubt that the handle for opening weekend would be significantly higher than last year. The enormity of the difference, however, was staggering. The overall handle on live Hastings races was up by 84 percent on Saturday and 96 percent Sunday. While those numbers are a bit skewed because there were 19 races held this year as opposed to 16 in 2004, the per-race average was still up by more than 61 percent. Even more encouraging to Hastings management was the ontrack numbers. Of the $1,046,275 bet on opening-day races, $400,149 was bet at Hastings. That's a 24 percent increase, and Sunday was strong as well, with the ontrack handle up 30 percent.

"I'm extremely pleased with our opening weekend," said Chuck Keeling, vice president of the racecourse division of Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which owns Hastings. "What really impressed me were our numbers ontrack. Plus, factoring out California, we were still way up."

Great Canadian sells 20 imports

Another sign of the health of the local industry was the results of the horses of racing age sale held at Hastings on Tuesday. Great Canadian put up for auction 20 horses that it had purchased in the United States. There were no reserves set on any of the horses. R. Associate was the sales-topper at $67,000, and Deputy Light went for the second highest price at $35,000. The total for the 20 horses came to $366,350, an average price of $18,318.

R. Associate, who was purchased by Garth Weeks, last raced at Gulfstream Park on March 26, finishing third by a neck in a $32,000 claiming race. His new trainer is Arnie Turner.

Deputy Light won a maiden special weight race at Philadelphia Park on March 7. He was bought by DNA Stables and will be trained by Pat Jarvis.

Blowin in the Wind wins long, short

It took Blowin in the Wind 27 starts before he won his first stakes, but it didn't take him long, race-wise, to notch his second. The versatile gelding won the Grade 3, 1 3/8-mile Premiers last October, and with Robert Skelly timing his late move perfectly, he came back to win the 6 1/2-furlong George Royal Stakes on opening day.

His trainer and owner, Dave Forster, doesn't really consider Blowin in the Wind a sprinter, and he was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

"I thought he would run well," said Forster. "He had been training extremely well all spring, so I wasn't that surprised. Plus, Skelly gave him a perfect ride. He just seems to get along with him."

Forster said that Blowin in the Wind would stretch back out for his next start, probably in the one-mile Teeworth Plate at Stampede Park May 21.

At the top of the stretch it looked like Lord Nelson was going to repeat as the George Royal winner, but, not surprising to his trainer, Dino Condilenios, he came up a bit short.

"He trains in an eggbar shoe, and with all of the wet weather we've had I just wasn't able to train him up to the race the way I would have liked," he said. "He came out of the race perfectly, so we'll likely run him back in the Hong Kong Jockey Sprint."

Another sharp one for Anderson

Trainer Robbie Anderson has another very good 3-year-old filly in Slewpast. Last year, Regal Red won five stakes in a row for Anderson, and if the results of the Fair Lady Stakes are any indication, Slewpast, who won by 6 3/4 lengths, could be just as dominant.

"The wet track really moved her up," said Anderson. "I was praying all week that it would rain, and when it came up wet I was pretty confident she would run a big race."

Anderson is hoping for the opposite this week for Regal Red, who will be heavily favored in the Strawberry Morn Stakes on Saturday.

"She's never run on an off track before and the way she trains, I don't think she'll like a wet track," he said.

* Frank Fuentes is off to a strong start with five wins over the weekend. He was aboard both Slewpast and Lord Nelson.

"The way Slewpast was working, I knew she was going to run a good race," he said. "Robbie told me to get her off of the rail, so after she broke sharply I took her back and she really responded when I asked her to run. Lord Nelson ran a good race as well but he just came up a bit short."