08/01/2007 11:00PM

Nielsen sending Monashee on road

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - B.C. Cup Day lost some of its sheen when the connections of Monashee made the decision to pass on the B.C. Cup Distaff. Instead, Monashee will head to Alberta to run in the $50,000 Madamoiselle at Northlands Park Aug. 10 and the $100,000 Edmonton Distaff Aug. 25, said her owner, Ole Nielsen, who races under Canmor Farms.

Monashee, who is trained by Tracy McCarthy, would have been heavily favored to win the B.C. Cup Distaff for the second year in a row despite being assigned 130 pounds. Nielsen, though, has more than one reason for heading out of town with Monashee.

"First of all, I don't think 130 pounds is a fair weight at this stage in her career," said Nielsen. "We were willing to let her carry that much in the Sun at a mile and sixteenth, and then bring her back against the boys in the Classic. But, since the [Sun] was canceled, she's been off for six weeks, and I think it's just too much to ask her to carry that much weight going a mile and an eighth."

The Vancouver Sun, which was scheduled for July 15, was canceled when only three horses entered. Monashee, who has won seven stakes races in a row, was the reason the connections of the other horses nominated to the Sun declined to enter.

It's easy to see why Nielsen is choosing to run Monashee in the Madamoiselle instead of the Distaff. The Madamoiselle is run under allowance conditions, and Monashee will carry 124 pounds. Nielsen is hopeful that if Monashee wins the Madamoiselle, she would pick up only a couple of pounds for the Edmonton Distaff, which is a handicap. Monashee won that race by5 1/4 lengths last year while toting 125 pounds.

Nielsen was also impressed by the response he received when he contacted officials at Northlands Park about bringing her out for the Madamoiselle.

"Fred Hiltz, the racing secretary at Northlands, told us, 'We would love to have you,' " said Nielsen. "I don't have any complaints with the management at Hastings. They tried to get the Sun to go. But it's pretty clear the other trainers and owners don't want to see her run here."

Nielsen, who is a local breeder and was inducted into the British Columbia Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2006, was also conflicted about running the Kentucky-bred Monashee on a day that was envisioned as a celebration of B.C.-breds. Last year, citing a declining foal count in the province, and short fields on the biggest day of the year, management at Hastings opened up the three races for older horses, Distaff, Sprint and Classic, to horses bred or owned in British Columbia

"I have always been bothered by the fact that B.C. Cup was opened up," said Nielsen. "We did run Monashee in the Distaff last year, but it just didn't feel right. And I don't feel great about running Stole Another in the Sprint this year. But we do live and race here, so we are going to run him. If they told me tomorrow that the races were restricted to B.C.-breds, I would be very happy to leave him in the barn."

Starlite Strike thrust into spotlight

With Monashee out of the Distaff, Starlite Strike will take over the favorite's role in a race that has suddenly become more competitive. It looks like six or possibly seven horses will run in the Distaff, and three will not be B.C.-breds.

Local breeders will argue that if the race had been restricted to B.C.-breds there would have been a lot more nominations to a race that didn't include Monashee. Given the lack of depth in the local filly and mare handicap division and the shortage of higher-priced claiming and allowance horses at Hastings, it's hard to say just where the nominations would have come from.

In the Classic, where B.C.-bred Spaghetti Mouse stands out almost as much as Monashee, the bulk of the field will be made up of horses that weren't bred in B.C. It looks like five of the seven potential starters will be non-B.C.-breds.

Local foal count lacking

Raj Mutti, the operations manager at Hastings, hopes that in the near future the format for B.C. Cup will revert to the way it was intended. In order for that to happen, though, the foal count in the province has to reach 600. According to statistics published in the British Columbia Thoroughbred Industry Directory, there were 431 horses foaled in 2006.

"We really want our breeders to thrive," he said. "Without a strong local breeding industry it would be very hard for us to put on a good show on a regular basis. Right now there's a lot of quality but not enough quantity. Hopefully we can get the foal count back up and have the kind of racing we all want to see here."

Mutti also said that the handle and the average field size for B.C. Cup was up considerably last year.

MacPherson remembered

A celebration of life was held for Alastair MacPherson last Saturday. MacPherson, who was an owner and breeder, died after fighting a long battle against pancreatic cancer.

MacPherson, who was 73, had been a past president of the local division of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society. As well as being involved in horse racing his whole live, MacPherson spent most of his working life as an engineer at B.C. Hydro. He graduated in professional engineering from the University of British Columbia in 1956.

He is survived by his wife, Carol; two sons, Brent and Craig; and a daughter, Brenda Murray. Craig MacPherson is one of the leading trainers at Hastings.