08/20/2008 12:00AM

Top juveniles scare off rivals

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Juveniles will share the spotlight this weekend at Hastings. The $50,000 Lassie Stakes for fillies headlines Saturday's card, and colts and geldings get their turn in the $50,000 New Westminster Stakes on Sunday.

Both races will have very short-priced favorites, and because What R the Odds and El Sinaloense appear to be unbeatable, it looks like both races will have short fields.

What R the Odds, who is trained by Mel Snow, stands out in the 6 1/2-furlong Lassie. She easily won the $50,000 Timber Music going six furlongs, and the extra sixteenth of a mile doesn't figure to be any problem. The only horse to beat her in three starts is El Sinaloense, and he'll be the odds-on choice to win the New Westminster.

What R the Odds has worked three times since she won the Timber Music on July 12, and her five-furlong move in 59.80 seconds on Aug. 16 is a good sign that she's coming into the Lassie in excellent shape.

"It was a good work for her," Snow said. "She's doing really well right now, and we'll see how she runs on Saturday."

Snow bought What R the Odds out of the Ocala Breeders' Sale last November for the bargain-basement price of $1,000. She's already earned $45,469 and counting.

"I was pretty lucky," Snow said. "She didn't have a reserve, and the guy that was selling her was supposedly having lunch when she came up for sale. He was pretty upset and didn't want to give her up. The sales company had to get security to make him give her to me."

El Sinaloense hard to control

El Sinaloense, who is owned and trained by Juan Olmos, has jogged in the last two stakes at Hastings, and there is no telling how good he really is. Both times he won in hand, and he posted the best-ever Beyer Speed Figure, 92, for a 2-year-old at Hastings when he won the Ladnesian by 5 1/4 lengths.

The only thing that might stop him is his volatile nature. The first day he went back to the track following his easy win in the B.C. Cup Nursery on Aug. 4, he got loose from the person ponying him. He got away so quickly that he ran off the track before anyone could shut the gates to the on and off gaps. Luckily, he didn't get hurt when he hit the pavement running at full speed. On Wednesday morning, he dumped his exercise rider and breezed about a half-mile before he was caught.

"He's just too quick," Olmos said. "He should be fine. He really didn't run off too far, and I'm pretty sure it didn't hurt him. I like the way he's training, and hopefully he'll run his race on Sunday."

Hastings jockeys invade Northlands

Jockeys Mario Gutierrez, Pedro Alvarado, Richard Hamel, and Chad Hoverson will all be absent from Hastings on Saturday. They have mounts in the $300,000 Canadian Derby at Northlands Park. The prime mount belongs to Hoverson, who will be aboard Texas Wildcatter.

Texas Wildcatter couldn't have been more impressive in his first start in Canada, and he figures to be tough to beat in the Canadian Derby. Trained by Troy Taylor, Texas Wildcatter came from off the pace to almost beat the top older horse at Hastings, Spaghetti Mouse, in the B.C. Cup Classic on Aug. 4.

Holy Nova, who is also trained by Taylor and will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, will likely be a short-priced favorite in the $100,000 Edmonton Distaff.

Track cuts takeout for show betting

Show players will appreciate the move by Hastings to drop the takeout on show wagers from 17 percent to 12 percent. According to Hastings general manager Raj Mutti, Hastings now has the lowest takeout in North America on show wagers.

"We're thrilled to make this reduction in the wagering takeout," said Ross McLeod, CEO of Great Canadian. "A show wager is inherently one of high probability, but low value. By lowering the track's takeout by nearly a third, we'll increase that value. Every winning show bet will now become that much more valuable."

Court won't hear case against slots

The slots floor at Hastings opened last Friday, and since the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case brought by the Hastings Park Conservancy last week, it will remain open.

The Hastings Park Conservancy, a local community group, has been trying to stop the installation of slots at Hastings since Vancouver gave the okay in 2004. The group lost its original case, and also an appeal it made to the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

The conservancy's position was that since the racetrack was located in a park, the racetrack was under the park board's jurisdiction, not the City Council's.