04/19/2006 11:00PM

Un-retired Walker wins twice


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - This meet got off to a dramatic start for jockey Mark Walker. Riding his first race since 2000, Walker guided 7-1 shot Sindi's Success to a nose decision over Regal Daniell. Walker's other mount on the day, first-time starter Knotty Ash, also won.

Not a bad day for someone who thought he would never ride again.

"It's hard to describe how I feel," Walker said. "Wow is about all I can say. It couldn't have gone any better."

Walker, 49, quit riding in 2000 because his body was in pretty rough shape. Besides a sore back and the usual aches and pains from riding for more than 25 years, his hip had degenerated so badly that it needed to be replaced. Walker had successful surgery roughly four years ago.

"It took a while to recover, but now the hip seems to be pretty solid," he said. "I spent a little extra money to get what was supposed to be the top-of-the-line material, and it seems to have paid off."

Walker also has a completely different attitude about riding from when it was his primary source of income. It's not just a job to him now.

"Mind, spirit, and body are all together, and so I'm really enjoying being back at the track," he said. "Before, I had to be here in order to feed the kids and myself. Now, I'm here to have some business fun and God willing, we'll have some success."

When Walker isn't at the track he works as a forklift operator for Kinderslay Transport. It's a transportation-shipping company located on Annacis Island, in Delta, a suburb of Vancouver.

"I make a good living working there and they treat me very well," he said. "I don't necessarily need the income from riding, but don't get me wrong, I like money. The good thing is that I don't have to worry about riding horses just to pick up a mount. I'm here to win."

With the two wins Friday, Walker has now won 1,847 races, including 99 stakes. He's the fourth leading all-time stakes rider at Hastings with 81 wins. His ride on Sindi's Success demonstrated that despite being away for almost six years, he still knows how to get around the tight turns at this oval.

For most of the race, Sindi's Success was trapped down on the rail, but Walker never panicked. He bided his time, went inside a tiring horse that drifted out on the turn, and wheeled Sindi's Success off the rail when they turned for home. It was a classic ride at Hastings.

When Walker came back to the winner's enclosure he received a rousing welcome from the large crowd that had turned out for the opening-day card.

"That was wonderful," he said. "It was a tremendous reception. I'm just thrilled to be back riding."

Although Walker hasn't been riding for the last six years, he still came out in the mornings to spend time with his many friends at Hastings. The limp he was walking around with is long gone. Replacing it is a noticeable bounce in his step.

Two trainers eye Stampede stakes

Quiet Cash, who won the George Royal Stakes on opening day, and Spirit to Spare, winner of the Brighouse Belles on Saturday, could both be headed to Alberta.

According to his trainer, Terry Jordan, Quiet Cash has been nominated to the $50,000 Stampede Park Sprint Championship on April 29.

"There isn't another stakes here for older horses until May 22," said Jordan. "He came out of the George Royal in good shape so we're considering going out of town. The main goal is the Longacres Mile. Everything before is just to try and get him there as good as we can."

Quiet Cash finished second in the Longacres Mile last year.

Spirit to Spare won't have to wait as long as Quiet Cash to run at Hastings. Older fillies and mares will get their next chance at added money in the Vancouver Sun on May 13. Tom Longstaff, who trains Spirit to Spare, has other reasons for considering a trip to the prairies.

"It's pretty simple," he said "Monashee and Regal Red should both be ready for the Sun. She would face a lot easier group in Alberta and the purse is the same."

Longstaff said he nominated Spirit to Spare for the $50,000 M.R. Jenkins Memorial on April 30 at Stampede.

It's also possible she will run in both the M.R. Jenkins and the Sun.

* The lawsuit filed by the Hastings Conservancy against the City of Vancouver to try and stop slots from being installed at Hastings has been delayed again. Reportedly, the lawyer representing the Conservancy was just about an hour away from completing his final argument last Thursday when the judge adjourned the case until May 5 for continuation.