08/06/2009 11:00PM

Pacific Challenge proves a poor draw


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Hastings management was disappointed that just one horse shipped up from Emerald Downs for last Monday's inaugural Pacific Challenge.

The Pacific Challenge, a group of three races for 3-year-olds and up, was created to foster a rivalry between Washington-bred horses at Emerald Downs and B.C.-breds at Hastings. It was a tough sell to the horsemen at Emerald Downs. Instead of shipping to Hastings, they took advantage of options offered at their home base. The same will likely happen when Emerald hosts the second leg of the Challenge on Sept. 13. Conflicting with the Challenge are five stakes races scheduled at Hastings on Sept. 7. Three of the races at Hastings are in direct conflict with the three Challenge races at Emerald.

Sprinters can run in the $50,000 PNE Presidents Handicap, fillies and mares can walk over from their stalls to run in the $55,000 Strawberry Morn Stakes, and the top handicap horses here have an option to run in the $50,000 S W Randall Plate.

Trainer Craig MacPherson wasn't ruling out a trip to Emerald with B.C. Cup Distaff winner Against the Sky, however. Against the Sky outclassed her five opponents in the 1o1/8-mile Distaff, but there was some doubt because she was coming off of a three-month layoff and had run relatively dull races in her two previous races this year, both sprints.

With Frank Fuentes aboard, Against the Sky finally wore down a stubborn Rosada to win the $54,564 race by a length. With the win, Against the Sky remained unbeaten in races longer than 6 1/2 furlongs.

"I was proud of her," MacPherson said. "She had a lot going against her but she really showed her class. We are going to nominate her to both races and see what comes up easier."

The reason Against the Sky was off for so long was because she injured herself while being unloaded off a van when she was sent home to freshen up following her dull effort in the Brighouse Belles on May 3. MacPherson does have some concerns about shipping her.

"She's a bit of a volatile thing," MacPherson said. "I just don't know how she'll handle the trip."

The top older females at Hastings aren't eligible to the Challenge races. They are Holy Nova, Blue Sky Holiday, and Summer Song, who can be added to the list following her impressive seven-length win in the $50,000 Madamoiselle Handicap at Northlands Park last weekend.

Rosada retired with injury

According to trainer Barbara Heads, Rosada came out of the Distaff with an injury and has been retired.

A 4-year-old filly, Rosada won the Lassie Stakes as a 2-year-old but hasn't won since. She was stretching out for the first time in the Distaff.

"She's been very fragile since she was a 2-year-old," Heads said. "It's too bad, because she showed what she's capable of in the Distaff."

Heads had a lot to be happy with on B.C. Cup Day, however. She won the Debutante with Vying Ty Grr and the Dogwood with Tierra Del Fuego. Both horses won by more than five lengths. Trick of the North also ran a big race to finish third in the Classic.

Tierra Del Feugo stamped herself as the local favorite to win the British Columbia Oaks on Sept. 26. With the recent purse cuts instituted at Hastings, the purse for the $125,000 Oaks went from being added to guaranteed.

Tierra Del Fuego could make her next start in the Hong Kong Jockey Club on Sept. 7. Vying Ty Grr will likely make her next start in the $50,000 Lassie on Aug. 26.

Olmos runs 1-2 in Nursery

Owner-trainer Juan Olmos was beaming after a one-two finish with Huitzilopochtli and Mucho Verde in the 6 1/2-furlong Nursery.

Huitzilopochtli couldn't have been more impressive. With leading rider Fernando Perez aboard, he looked very comfortable stalking Mucho Verde before taking over control of the race at the quarter pole. His final time of 1:16.97 compared favorably to the 1:16.67 Woomboom Express, an older horse, posted in the Sprint.

Olmos paid $16,000 for Huitzilopochtli at the local Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society's Yearling and mixed sale last September.

Olmos owned and trained the top 2-year-old at Hastings last year, El Sinaloense. El Sinaloense is a pure speed horse and needs the lead in order to win. On the other hand, Huitzilopochtli can be rated. He also is a half-brother to Grade 3 Ballerina winner Grace for You, so he shouldn't have any trouble stretching out to a middle distance.

"I couldn't be happier with him," Olmos said. "He came back good and he'll probably run in the New Westminster" on Aug. 28.

Huitzilopochtli and Mucho Verde weren't coupled in the Nursery. When asked if he had cashed in on the $46.90 exacta, Olmos's already large smile widened. "Of course," he said.