05/12/2002 11:00PM

Wednesday programs scratched in schedule shake-up


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Beginning in June, the shape of the Hastings Park racing schedule will change dramatically.

Wednesday evening will be dropped and the races lost from the mid-week card will be added to the Saturday and Sunday cards. In addition, nine Friday evenings will be added to the schedule.

Post times will also change. Saturday, Sunday, and holiday Monday's will now begin at 2:23 pm, Friday's cards will start at 5 p.m. Weekend post time changes will begin Saturday but the final three Wednesdays will remain at the usual 5:53 pm.

The main reason for the changes is to allow for the Hastings card to be simulcast to Woodbine after the major Eastern tracks have finished.

"Being part of the Woodbine Entertainment Group means that we can increase our simulcasting capabilities across Canada and the United States, and that extra simulcast revenue increases the size of purses, and ultimately the quality of racing," explained Hastings president Phil Heard. "And although there will be a net loss in racing days, the actual number of races carded will be up about 30 percent."

Heard said the there were also plans to increase Hastings's exposure on The Racing Network and also the Score, a national cable channel.

Mel Snow, president of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, is hopeful that the changes will help increase purses.

"Hastings management is convinced that it will make a big difference in our purses and so we're willing to go along with it," Snow said.

He explained the changes weren't force-fed to the horsemen and was impressed with the relationship that has developed between the HBPA and the new management group since the takeover from Woodbine.

Most of the response from the backstretch was positive but some trainers felt that going into the Eastern market that late wouldn't work and only running on weekends would make it harder to fill races.

"I support anything that will help get purses up," said owner-trainer Tom Longstaff, "But I know a lot of trainers have taken Coggins on their horses and if they have to wait too long for a race to fill, they'll be heading down to Emerald mid-week."

Owner upgrading his stable

Inish Glora, with Fernando Serna aboard, took advantage of tremendous speed duel between Queen of My Nights and Grooms Derby to capture the $37,940 Strawberry Morn Stakes from well off the pace last Saturday.

Inish Glora's owner, Robert Costigan, is in the process of trying to build a stable that can compete anywhere in the world.

"If you can race a horse in Ireland and bring him to the Breeders' Cup, I don't see why you can't have a horse in B.C. and race him anywhere," Costigan said.

Costigan, who is originally from Ireland, recently purchased a couple of horses that are bred to compete at the highest level. He spent $100,000 U.S. for an El Prado colt at the Ocala 2-year-olds in training sale and last year he spent $80,000 for a Touch Gold filly that is a half-sister to recent Grade 2 winner Dr. Kashnikow.

Costigan sent Inish Glora to Woodbine last fall and felt that they learned a lot from the experience. "We'll probably go back there later on in the year and try our luck again."

Inish Glora was a handful as a young horse and Costigan was very proud of his trainer, Kathy Bremner, for turning her into a stakes winner.

"The first day she came to the track she dumped her rider, jumped the training track fence, and went around the main track a couple of times before we could catch her," said Bremner. "She was capable of throwing off anyone that got on her back and that seemed to be her main goal for a while."