04/22/2005 12:00AM

Scratched stakes a big letdown

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The City of Vancouver Stakes was supposed to be the coming-out party for Notis Otis. A British Columbia-bred colt, he was the champion 2-year-old in the province last year and his trainer Tracy McCarthy was looking forward to starting him for the first time this year on Sunday.

When only three horses were nominated, however, and it turned out that the connections of just two were serious about running, the race was canceled.

It is the first time anyone can remember a stakes race being canceled at Hastings. In the past, management at Hastings let three-horse stake races go, but ran them as exhibitions. The last one was in 1996, when Strawberry Morn galloped around to beat Two Tone Lindi and Martini Rossi.

There seems little question that if they had run the City of Vancouver Stakes, it would have basically been a walkover for Notis Otis. He won 4 of his 5 starts last year and lost by a nose to Alabama Rain when he stretched out in the Ascot Graduation following a six-week layoff. McCarthy was obviously disappointed about the cancellation.

"The good thing about having a stakes horse is that you are able plan his life out a little better," she said. "As soon as we got the stakes book and saw this was the first stakes for B.C.-bred colts, we got our horse ready. It wasn't easy, either. Because of the weather we had to train over rough tracks. He never worked over a good racetrack until the nominations closed. We showed up to be counted, and nobody else did. It's really a shame he didn't get to run."

McCarthy said that Notis Otis would ship to Stampede Park to run in the President's Stakes May 8 and that although he would continue to train at Hastings, he would likely run three times in Alberta, with the main goal the Alberta Derby June 18.

One Special Hoss headed to Emerald

Another 3-year-old heading out of town is One Special Hoss. According to his trainer, Ed Thompson, One Special Hoss will run in the $40,000 Auburn Stakes at Emerald Downs next weekend. One Special Hoss won 3 of his 5 starts at age 2, including the Birdcatcher Stakes at Northlands Park.

"There were three races for high priced 3-year-olds over the weekend, but none of them filled," said Thompson. "He's ready to run, so we'll try our luck down there."

Thompson has had tremendous success buying yearlings for bargain-basement prices and turning them into stakes horses. He currently has six 2-year-olds in training.

"The one I like the most is One Special Browny," he said. "He acts like a good horse."

Eventful week for Gilker

Trainer Robert Gilker went through a myriad of emotions leading up to the opening weekend. Gilker had been pointing Rules of War to the George Royal Stakes, but on Thursday the 4-year-old was euthanized because of a virus that ultimately caused him to founder. Then on Saturday, Gilker's wife, Vicky, gave birth to a baby boy.

"It was a real low to an incredible high," he said. "Vicky went into the hospital when the track opened in the morning, and the baby was born before the first track renovation break. So far he's an unnamed colt."

Gilker closed out the week on another positive note. He won the seventh race last Saturday with Shoots n' Scores. Gilker liked the way he came out of the race so much that he entered him back this Sunday. He should be one of the favorites in the second race.

* For the first time at Hastings, a morning veterinarian check has been instituted. Before this year, the first time a horse was seen by a vet acting on behalf of the track was in the paddock.

Leading rider Frank Fuentes was pleased with the move.

"It's better for everyone," he said. "As long as they don't pass marginal horses, it should help improve the racing here."