Hastings Racecourse returns with live thoroughbred racing after pandemic-shortened seasons

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      The ponies will be prancing on parade again this summer at Hastings Racecourse.

      After two pandemic-shortened summer thoroughbred racing seasons in 2020 and 2021, the track with one of the best scenic views in North America will be open for business on May 7.

      With races scheduled mostly on weekends until the season's close, on October 16, the track plans to offer 45 live racing days to prospective punters and pros alike.

      The pandemic-shortened 2020 and 2021 racing seasons offered only 25 days each.

      Eleven of those 45 dates will present a total of 29 stakes races, with B.C. Cup day falling on September 10 this year and offering a total of $300,000 in purses for four races, including the long-running B.C. Derby and B.C. Oaks stakes races.

      “We’re ready,” Nichelle Milner, regional manager of racing operations, said in an April 28 release. “We’ve had in excess of 400 horses on the grounds training, and half of those are B.C.-breds.  That’s great for our industry.”

      Admission is still free, the minimum bet is still $2, and no one looks twice if you decide to dress up like you're attending the Royal Ascot (though many attendees save their sartorial splendour for The Cup racing day, which this year falls on July 23).

      Hastings Racecourse

      The May 7 opening day features a seven-race card that gets underway at 2 p.m. If watching the venerable Kentucky Derby that day was in your plans, you can experience the Run for the Roses live on the enormous infield video screen.

      Milner said the roster of jockeys returning for the 2022 season includes Antonio Reyes (2021's leading rider), Amadeo Perez, Antonio Reyes, Scott Williams, twins Lenny and Learie Seecharan, Silvino Morales, and Efrain Hernandez.

      “We’ll also have Angela Straight as part of that lineup,” Milner said.  “She’s ridden at Portland Meadows, Turf Paradise [Phoenix, Arizona], Emerald Downs [Auburn, Washington], and made her debut here [Hastings] last season. I know the fans are going to relate to her in a positive way.”

      Veteran Hastings track announcer and B.C. Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dan Jukich—who has called more than 20,000 races during his career at Hastings—will return for his 32nd year in the broadcast booth atop the grandstand. 

      The Hall of Fame website estimates that when guest-announcing gigs at another half-dozen North American tracks are taken into account, Jukich has called more than 40,000 traces during his career. (Only local track legend Jack Short called more races at the landmark racing oval over his 43-year career in the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.)

      “Like every other sport, opening day is always special,” Jukich said in the release. “Just getting behind the microphone and looking out at that beautiful backdrop with Burrard Inlet, those mountains, and, hopefully, a big blue sky will get the juices flowing. It never gets old.”

      On the May 7 opening day, a moment of silence will be held before the first race to acknowledge the recent death of longtime breeder, owner, and trainer Glen Todd on March 27, 2022. 

      Glen Todd

      Todd gave a $1 million loan to the track last year to enable it to complete its shortened season and keep the track's approximately 700 employees working for another month.

      Todd is credited with mentoring Mexican jockey Mario Gutierrez at Hastings Racecourse when the teenager came to Vancouver in 2006. Gutierrez won racing titles in the next two years, and he went on to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 2012, as well as another Kentucky Derby in 2016.