04/21/2010 11:00PM

Strong opening day card kicks off 71-day season

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Hastings opens its live meet Saturday with a strong card and an excellent feature race that includes seven stakes winners.

The meet is scheduled for 71 days this year - three fewer than in 2009 - and runs through Oct. 11. Hastings has budgeted $115,000 a day for overnight purses, a slight increase from last year. The bottom claiming level has been dropped from $5,000 to $3,000. The purses for some stakes have been decreased, with the Grade 3, $200,000 British Columbia Derby taking the most significant hit, losing $75,000. The 1 1/8-mile derby is scheduled for Sept. 26.

B.C. Cup Day, Aug. 2, traditionally draws the biggest crowd at Hastings. The B.C. Cup has been changed back to its original format of having all seven stakes races restricted to B.C.-breds. Headlining the card is the $75,000 B.C. Cup Classic for 3-year-olds and up.

Other highlights of the meet include the $100,000 Lieutenant Governors, for 3-year-olds and up, July 1; the $100,000 B.C. Oaks, Sept. 25; the Grade 3, $120,000 Ballerina, for fillies and mares, Oct. 9; and the Grade 3, $100,000 Premiers, for 3-year-olds and up, Oct. 10.

Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Monday post times will be 1:40 p.m. Pacific. Post time for Fridays, which begin on May 14, will be 7 p.m. Hastings is located on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. During the annual fair held from Aug. 21 to Sept. 6, Hastings will run midweek with a 6:40 p.m. post time.

Trainer Troy Taylor is again loaded with horses for every category and will be heavily favored to win his fourth straight training title. Fernando Perez, the leading jockey last year, is back to defend his title.

The opening-day feature, a six-furlong classified allowance race with a $50,000 claiming option for 3-year-olds and up, drew 10 horses and goes as the eighth race.

The six-furlong sprint attracted last year's Grade 3 Canadian Derby winner, Tommy Danzigger, and the all-time leading B.C.-bred money earner, Spaghetti Mouse. Adding interest to the race is Leonides, a stakes winner at Hollywood Park who also placed in the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby in 2008.

They will all have their hands full with Seminole Brave. Trained by Mel Snow, Seminole Brave looked very strong in his final work, getting six furlongs in 1:11.60 on April 16. Seminole Brave also runs well fresh. He won his first two starts last year and his second win came in the $50,000 George Royal Stakes.