04/15/2005 12:00AM

Nuesch lured back to Pacific Northwest


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A total of 19 jockeys have signed on to ride at Hastings this year. While that doesn't sound like a large number, compared to the last couple of years it's a plethora of riders. The prospect of larger purses and more racing days apparently has made Hastings a much more attractive spot than it was in past years.

David Nuesch figures to be a welcome addition to the jockey colony. The veteran rider has won more than 1,200 races and his mounts have earned over $16 million. He's also familiar with the Pacific Northwest. He was the leading rider at Emerald in 1998, and while he's only ridden a couple of horses up at Hastings, he has had plenty of experience riding at Fairplex, where the track configuration is similar.

He was drawn to Hastings by his agent, Gordon Rumble.

"I knew Gord when he was an agent in Seattle and he contacted me over the winter about coming to Hastings," said Nuesch. "He was very optimistic about the way things were starting to shape up. With the casino buying the track, he thinks things look pretty bright."

At the time, Nuesch was riding halfway around the world in Macao, enjoying the experience.

"Overall it was good," he said. "I don't regret doing it. I had to make some adjustments. They race in the opposite direction and they certainly have a different way of doing things there, but all in all it was an enjoyable experience."

Nuesch, 35, learned how to ride in Virginia, where his father and two brothers own farm where they break and train horses.

"It's just outside of Charlottesville, and I basically grew up in the business," he said.

Nuesch rode his first mount in 1986 at Belmont Park and had a very successful year as an apprentice on the New York circuit.

"My best year as a rider was when I was an apprentice," he said. "The bug was very popular in New York, and E. T. Baird and myself both were really in demand."

Before going to Macao, Nuesch was based in Southern California. Seabiscuit, the movie, had a lot to do with his move back to the West Coast.

"I was splitting my time between Emerald and Oaklawn Park, but the meets didn't line up very well, so in 2001 I decided to stay and ride in that mid-south loop full-time," he said. "Things had slowed down a bit and through my friend Luis Jauregui, I was offered a job as a stunt jockey in Seabiscuit. It was an incredible experience. To be part of the movie industry when it pertained to our industry was just great, especially since the movie was so well received."

His experience at Fairplex should help him here. He finished tied for fourth in the rider standings there in 2003 and 10th last year.

"It's a little different at Fairplex than it is here," he said. "The turns here are a lot kinder and horses have a much easier time getting around them. I like riding on a small track, and I learned a lot from watching the way Martin Pedroza negotiates his way around the turns at Fairplex. I'm looking forward to riding here full time."

Nuesch lists his career highlights as winning the 2004 Texas Mile aboard Kela and being the leading rider at Emerald.

He's been working a lot of horses since arriving at Hastings and has a foot in the door with a couple of the top trainers on the grounds, so he should get off to a good start. He won't starve if he doesn't catch on right away though.

"I'm still getting residuals from Seabiscuit," he said with a big grin.

Jake Barton and Patricia Trimble will also ride at Hastings full time this year. Both were regulars at Hastings in the past but shipped east to ride at Woodbine and Fort Erie a couple of years ago. Both were based at Fort Erie in the summer of 2004 before returning to Hastings last fall.

Not coming back is Sam Krasner, who has officially retired.

Krasner retires with more than 3,000 wins. He is second to Chris Loseth in wins and stakes wins at Hastings.

"The doctor said I shouldn't come back," he said. "I kind of wanted to hear it and not want to hear it at the same time."

Krasner will be on the grounds, though, working as jockey agent for Jake Barton and Anthony Stephen.