04/14/2004 11:00PM

New owners old hands at racing game

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - New ownership at Hastings means fresh optimism on the backstretch. Under the Woodbine Entertainment Group the track did turn things around, but many believe that with successful local businessmen Peter Wall and Peter Redekop now at the top, Hastings could take off, especially if slots are approved by the Vancouver City Council. Wall owns 40 percent of the subsidiary formed by co-owner Great Canadian Gaming Corporation to operate Hastings. Redekop has been named to the board of directors.

Wall and Redekop are both real-estate developers who have been involved in horse racing for a long time and were partners in Cossack Stables in the late 1970's and early 80's.

Wall focused his horse racing operations in California and won the Pacific Classic with Missionary Ridge in 1992. He has fond memories of that time in his life.

"I also had Eternity Star and won the Del Mar and Hollywood Derby with him in 1991," Wall said. "Bobby Frankel picked him out for me and I paid $575,000 for him when he was a 2-year-old in France. We brought him back to run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile but he finished last.

"Bobby told me not to worry about it and that he would have him ready to win the Del Mar Derby next year. When he led him over for the race, he reminded me of what he said. I think he paid $78 to win."

Redekop won the 1994 British Columbia Derby with Squire Jones. He's excited about being part of the new company.

"My main focus will be to try and get people involved in racing again," he said. "I know a lot of people in real estate that have done real well the past couple of years, and I think I can convince them to spend some of their money in having a good time at the track."

Harold Barroby, the all-time leading trainer at Hastings, is also positive about the future. But he also was critical of some of his colleagues for the short fields on opening day. Only 58 horses were entered for the eight races Saturday.

"I think it's great," said Barroby. "I think things will get straightened out around here. They're both doers and I'm sure they'll be able to put some pressure on some of the trainers to start having their horses ready for the beginning of the meet. A lot of people want to blame the racing office for the short fields opening day, but year in and year out it's the same trainers that don't enter their horses until we've already run a few weeks.

"With the weather we've had this year, it's ridiculous that more horses weren't ready to run."

Trainer Dennis Terry has been a fixture at Hastings for over half a century. He started out walking hots in 1949, took out his jockey's license in 1957, and has trained horses since 1972. He's happy with the new ownership.

"You have two guys that have their thumb on the pulse of racing," he said. "They're players, and they back up their talk by action."

Dancewithavixen home to stay

Owner-trainer Tom Longstaff is pleased to have Dancewithavixen back at Hastings, and she figures to be favored in the opening day feature, the $40,000 Strawberry Morn Stakes. Longstaff sent Dancewithavixen to northern California for a race in January and had the misfortune to run into a buzzsaw named Ema Bovary, who has won nine races in a row and recently defeated Grade 1 winner Harmony Lodge in the Madison Stakes at Keenland April 7.

"It didn't help to run into a monster like Ema Bovary," said Longstaff. "But she just wasn't happy down there so I brought her home. She's not quite back to being 100 percent, but I still expect her to run a good race Saturday."

Longstaff also had to find a substitute exercise rider for Dancewithavixen after she returned from northern California, because her usual exercise rider, Corky Russell, was laid up with a burst appendix. While he was pleased with the work of Drew Levere, who also is the Hastings track superintendent, Longstaff was happy to have Russell back.

"Drew did a nice job with her but it takes about 40 minutes a day to train her, and Drew is just too busy for that," he said. "Corky lets her stand out on the track, and it just makes a huge difference in her demeanor."

Longstaff said that Dancewithavixen will race exclusively at Hastings this year.

At a glance: Hastings

RACING SCHEDULE: 71 days; April 17 through Nov. 28, racing Saturday and Sunday. Also holiday Mondays and Thursday July 1.

POST TIME: 1:03 p.m. Pacific.

ADMISSIONS: General, free; clubhouse (Diamond Club), $5

SEATING: Box seats: $12 per box (six seats)

PARKING: $6.50, includes a $2 coupon for either a Keno ticket or racing program, also a $4.50 coupon toward food and beverage.

HIGHLIGHTS: $250,000 British Columbia Derby Sept. 26; $365,000 B.C. Cup Day, Aug. 2.

LOCATION: Pacific National Exhibition Grounds, located at the corner of Hastings and Renfrew, Vancouver, B.C.

PHONE: (604) 254-1631

INTERNET: www.hastingsracecourse.com