04/12/2006 11:00PM

Short fields on B.C. Cup Day lead to changes

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A few changes were made to the stakes schedule at Hastings this year. The biggest is the restructuring of B.C. Cup Day. In an effort to improve the card for B.C. Cup Day, Aug. 7, three of the seven stakes races traditionally restricted to British Columbia-breds have been opened up to horses that are owned by British Columbia residents.

Last year the races for older horses - the Classic, Sprint, and Distaff - all had five-horse fields. Management is hopeful that with the new conditions, field size will increase on what has become the biggest day of racing in British Columbia.

"I went back over the records, and because of the foal crops reducing so much in the last 10 years, it got to the point with the older horses that there just aren't enough to make decent betting races," said Michael Mackey, general manager at Hastings. "On our biggest day we can't bring the public out here and expect them to bet on five-horse fields."

There was also a minor change to the two races for 3-year-olds. Both divisions of the Stallion Stakes have been dropped and replaced with a pair of races for B.C.-breds - the Stellar's Jay, for colts and geldings, and the Dogwood, for fillies.

"We had some of our best B.C.-bred 3-year-olds sit out the B.C. Cup last year because they were by outside stallions," said Mackey.

Most notable was Spaghetti Mouse, who is by Ontario-based Archers Bay. Spaghetti Mouse went on to win the Grade 3 B.C. Derby last year.

Not everyone is happy with the changes.

"We're disappointed," said Dixie Jacobson, president of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society, B.C. Division. "The original idea for the day was to highlight B.C.-breds. Now, it's kind of half that way. It's been such a success and I'm not sure we really need to make a change."

Mackey did say that if the foal count improved Hastings would look at going back to the old format.

"We're down to 450 foals in the province," he said. "I told the breeders that if we can get it up to 600, we would seriously consider going back to B.C.-breds only."

Classic purse gets big donation

When the stakes schedule was released in January, the B.C. Cup Classic was listed at $75,000. Last week Hastings announced that local developer and horse owner Peter Redekop was adding $25,000 to the purse.

"It brings the purse back up to $100,000, and that's where I think it should be," Redekop said. "It's one of the most important races in the province."

Redekop is one of the owners of Kentucky Derby candidate Cause to Believe.

Showdown in Sun shaping up

The Brighouse Belles, which goes as the seventh race Saturday, drew a very good field, but missing from the race are a couple of the top females in the province.

Both Monashee and Regal Red are still a few weeks away from running, and there's a good chance they will knock heads in the Vancouver Sun Stakes on May 13.

Last year, Monashee, trained by Tracy McCarthy, won the Grade 3 B.C. Breeders' Cup Oaks. She also beat older mares in the Grade 3 Ballerina. She was named the 2005 horse of the year in British Columbia.

"She's coming along nicely," said McCarthy. "I didn't see any need to push her early, but she should be ready for the next stakes on the schedule."

Regal Red breezed a good five furlongs over a wet track in 1:00.80 Thursday morning. It was her first five-furlong move this spring and, according to her trainer, Robbie Anderson, "If all goes well she should be ready for the Sun."

Regal Red started only twice in 2005. After winning the Strawberry Morn in April, she was turned out with a saucer fracture. She came back to finish second in the Cover Girl on Aug. 21, but once again, came up with a saucer fracture and was turned out for the remainder of the year.

T.J. Hennessy sharp for return

McCarthy is hoping for a good performance from T.J. Hennessy in a $50,000 optional claiming race for 3-year-olds, which goes as the third race Saturday. T.J. Hennessy scored an impressive maiden win in his debut last July and then finished third as the favorite in the New Westminster Stakes in late August. He was turned out for the remainder of the year.

"His shins were really bothering him," said McCarthy. "He's a pretty classy colt, and right now he's doing very well."

McCarthy wasn't thrilled that T.J. Hennessy worked a half-mile in a quick 45.80 seconds April 8.

"That was a lot faster than what I was looking for," she said. "But it didn't seem to bother him. I'd have to say he's going into Saturday's race extremely well."

According to McCarthy, Notis Otis is also close to a race. She was planning to run Notis Otis in the George Royal Stakes opening day but he got injured when he was playing around in his stall and had to miss a couple of weeks of training.

"It always seems to be something with him," said McCarthy.

Last year, Notis Otis, who was the champion 2-year-old in British Columbia in 2004, almost died after contracting a virus when he shipped to Stampede Park to run in the Presidents Handicap in early May. He eventually recovered to win 2 of his 3 starts, including the Hastings Sophomore on Sept. 24.