In two days of racing at Hastings Racecourse in Vancouver, trainer STEVE HENSON sent out five winners from 13 races. Those victories upped his season total to 10.

Loyal race fans who braved a spiteful spring evening were rewarded with some pulsating finishes on Friday. The track was ‘wet fast’ all night, with all, bar one, of the six contests going the way of horses in the first two throughout.

The opener on Friday night saw an exciting two-horse battle from gate-to-wire and narrowly proving best in 1:18.64, was Willow Creek Farm’s MINI MARKET ($29.60) with Scott Williams in the irons for conditioner Steve Henson. The daughter of Mass Market had to survive a stewards’ inquiry but the numbers were left to stand and she earned her first career victory in an impressive run. Don Muldoon and Dave Milburn’s DIPLOMATIC set all the fractions (23.21, 47.04) under Amadeo Perez and led to the stretch and was bumped repeatedly in the lane but stewards felt both horses were to blame and no change was made. Don Danard and Mel E Z TONIGHT ran a much-improved race win with the addition of blinkers under Brian Boodramsingh and checked in a fast-closing third.

The second of the evening went to Dave Milburn’s BUTTONWOOD TREE ($6.60), who turned in a monster performance on the class drop to win easily in a brilliant 1:43.62 under Kuri Powell for trainer Dave Milburn. The Northern California newcomer made all the fractions, which were quick (23.38, 47.56, 1:11.89), and cruised home a clear winner. WYN Racing Stables’ SOMETHING ELUSIVE was given a perfect ride by Kimal Santo but was simply second best tonight. J G Williamson Racing’s GOOD BYE PUTIN raced wide the last half-mile under Antonio Reyes and ended up well back in third for trainer Steve Henson.

The third race on the program went to the Hastings Racing Club and Mainline Stable’s FINDING WAYS ($4.50) who was beautifully rated by Kerron Khelawan, content to be in the second spot early before sprinting home late to win in a rapid 1:16.05 for trainer Nancy Betts. Jordan Froelich’s CEREBRO was able to get clear and set the pace, which was a lively one under Silvino Morales (22.08, 45.17) and stayed on gamely to be the runner-up for trainer Dino Condilenios. Pat Jarvis, R and L Stables and Nigel Reid’s SHARPZAN ran huge in his return to the races, battling determinedly under Antonio Reyes to get up and earn the third spot late for trainer Pat Jarvis.

The fourth race on the card was won by Lorie Henson, Helen Klimes and Sharon Pring’s QUAGMIRE ($2.60), who set a contested pace (22.28, 44.94) in the scratch-reduced field of three and cruised home a narrow but confident winner under Amadeo Perez in 1:15.80 (yes 1:15.80) for conditioner Steve Henson. Rob and Sheena Maybin’s EYE BE SEEING YOU gave everything he had in his first start since last fall and just missed in a courageous effort under Chris Mamdeen for trainer Rob Maybin. Joe and Gloria Russo’s COUNTRY COWBOY was sent on a mission early, chasing a lively pace and tired to be third for trainer Patty Leaney.

The fifth of the night saw Stewart Spencer’s KNOPFLER ($3.60) sit a nice trip in behind the speed with Silvino Morales at the controls and they tipped out three wide entering the lane to get up in deep stretch in 1:17.31 for trainer Keith Pedersen. Gabrielle Mathussek’s PADDY D’ORO was game in defeat in his first run of the young season under Brian Boodramsingh, chasing a sensible pace (22.98, 46.26) before making the front in the lane and just getting reeled-in late, settling for second for veteran conditioner Carl Lausten. Rob and Sheena Maybin’s VALUE MAX also turned in a big effort in his first start of the year under Chris Mamdeen, finishing a good third for trainer Rob Maybin.

The last of the night went to Canyon Farm’s BACK SHACK ($3.90), who was away from the gate far better tonight under Ridge Balgobin. The pair set a sensible pace of 22.75 and 45.79 but had to battle tenaciously through lane to preserve the win by the slimmest of margins for trainer Craig MacPherson in 1:16.25. Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds and James Redekop’s BAK TO LIBERTY was put in perfect striking position by Amadeo Perez, closely tracking BACK SHACK before engaging at the top of stretch and just missing by the bob of the nose for trainer Edgar Mendoza. G. O. Stables and Alexa Ramirez’s GROOVIN IS BAK took the blinkers off today and settled in behind the pace and closed with good interest to gain third money.

Saturday May 25

The heavy morning rain pushed through to leave a cloudy and annoyingly cool afternoon. The continued wet weather left the track in ‘wet fast’ condition for the first five races and then ‘good’ for the final two contests with conditions again mostly favouring horses on the speed.

The first race of the day saw Nicole Droder’s TIZ VICIOUS ($4.50) just get up in deep stretch under Kerron Khelawan to win a stretch-long duel in a sharp time of 1:16.03 for trainer Craig MacPherson. Hastings Horsepower and Minnaloushe Stables I’M CORFU was away and secured the lead and the rail through splits of 22.22 and 45.90, then started to sneak away under Learie Seecharan but was just caught late in a huge performance but having to settle for the runner-up spot for conditioner Peter Milburn. Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds’ STAY FANTASTIC was not at the his best distance but did very well to close up late to be third under Amadeo Perez for trainer Edgar Mendoza.

The second of the day went to Willow Creek Farm’s TEXAS MOONSHINE ($5.20), who became the first three-time winner at the young meet as he confidently held his rivals at bay under Antonio Reyes to win in 1:44.72 for Steve Henson. Doug Corsan, Len Houwelling and Mel Snow’s SLEW’S DA BOSS turned in a strong run as he stretched out to his preferred distance, but couldn’t quite catch the winner and was a clear second for trainer Mel Snow. Michelle Roberts-Henson, Brad Henson, Randy Henson, Dan Henson and Trevor Irwin’s BARNEY GOOGLE was content to settle behind the leaders and closed up to be third under Amadeo Perez for trainer Rob Henson.

The third on the program was won by ReinDance Farm’s BAKKEN OVERDRIVE ($4.90) who drove clear early to set uncontested fractions of 22.11 and 45.67 under Kimal Santo. They had plenty left in reserve to turn back all challenges to get the victory in 1:16.67 for trainer Cindy Krasner. George and Donna Gilbert’s COUNTERACT settled in behind the speed on the rail with Amadeo Perez at the controls. They drifted off the fence on the final turn to engage but couldn’t match strides with the winner and easily held second for trainer Barbara Heads. Dennis Dale, Morris Peter and Ed Welsh’s ROCKCLIFFE spent much of the trip in the three path under Silvino Morales and had to settle for third.

The fourth of the afternoon saw Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds and James Redekop’s BAKBURNER ($10.10) find her way to an easy uncontested lead of 22.35 and 46.78 before sprinting home under Kimal Santo to an impressive triumph in 1:17.12 for trainer Edgar Mendoza. The daughter of Bakken – Remarkable Lady by Finality was bred by Red Rock Farm. Russ Bennett’s VIVA LA DIVA was settled in second by Antonio Reyes and stayed there for the remainder of the trip. Don and Sue Danard’s BROOKE MAGIC was a little wide on the final bend and, with the lack of pace in the race, Brian Boodramsingh was only able to get the third spot for trainer Mel Snow.

The fifth race of the day was won by Helen Klimes, Jo-Anne McDonald and Sharon Pring’s THERE GOES MY HERO ($13.50) who was given a textbook ride by Amadeo Perez. Content to sit in behind a pace duel, then edge out to the three path and staying clear of trouble, they ran on to victory for trainer Steve Henson in 1:17.66. Tod Mountain Thoroughbreds and James Redekop’s BECKETT’S BEST was engaged in a quick pace duel (22.25, 45.52) with Kimal Santo aboard and emerged with the lead in deep stretch but could not hold the advantage, ending up a game runner-up for trainer Edgar Mendoza. Willow Lake and Stables ROLLIE’S SPIRIT had an unfortunate trip on the inside under Ridge Balgobin as he saved ground throughout and appeared to be travelling best on the stretch turn, but did not have racing room and had to steady losing momentum forcing him to finish an unlucky third.

The sixth race on the card was reduced to a field of four and taking advantage was Willow Creek Farms WHEN IN MEXICO ($8.60), who easily wired the field of maidens under Scott Williams, getting fractions of 22.52 and 46.99 before opening up decisively in the lane to win by many in 1:18.52 for conditioner Steve Henson. Forster Stable’s ON MY GOOD SIDE tracked the speed under Silvino Morales and drew alongside on the stretch turn, but could not stay with the winner and ended up a clear runner-up for trainer Dave Forster. Joe and Gloria Russo’s GO LENT GO raced on the rail throughout with Learie Seecharan up and checked in third.

The seventh race of the afternoon was won by Len Harris’ HIGHER IMAGE ($25.90), who sat a nice trip in behind the speed under Amadeo Perez then popped out three deep at the top of the lane and surged past the pacesetters to win in 1:17.18 for trainer Rob VanOverschot. Don Danard and Kim Kozak’s WEEKENDINDELMAR was keen early, setting a contested but sensible pace (22.81, 46.64) under Kerron Khelawan, and stayed on gamely for second for conditioner Kim Kozak. Don Danard and Mel Snow’s B C CHU CHU was also on the pace under Brian Boodramsingh and was in contention but had to settle for the third spot.