Weekend Round-Up: July 28th

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon at Hastings Racecourse, we had plenty of Racing Club activity as Square Dancer made his third appearance of the season and members got their first glimpse of Fast Bid as she paddock schooled.

Square Dancer

Ever the professional, Square Dancer breezed through his paddock and post-parade and made it out to the backstretch to take the three-hole in the starting gate. The field of seven had already been shortened with the scratch of Convergent, before an issue in the gate with City Steel saw the runners further reduced. For most horses a smaller field is good news for their chances, however with City Steel projected to be one of the few pacesetters in the race, this was not the best news for Dancer who likes there to be some honest fractions set ahead of him.

Dancer looked excited to be back at work while getting ready for the race.

After breaking cleanly. Dancer took a familiar position at the back of the pack while Speculator and Rak City set a comfortable early pace. Jockey Scott Williams held his Club I mount patiently throughout the whole of the first circuit, not panicking about the lack of a speed duel up front. As the speed quickened around the turn for home, Rak City started to struggle with the increased pace while European also showed signs of tiring, leaving Speculator and his off-the-pace challenger, Highway Boss fighting for the lead.

In a welcome sign to Club I members, upon asking at the top of the stretch Dancer found a faster step, picking off the two tiring horses with relative ease. The soft pace had however left plenty of energy for the two leaders who put on a fantastic head-bobbing display for the crowd with Speculator winning out by a nose. Dancer was five lengths back from those two but Scott eased off a little once he had third wrapped up, finishing a comfortable two lengths ahead of European.

Square Dancer looked very please with himself, displaying a neat “radar-ear” trick when we checked in with him after his race.

Dancer’s much improved performance will no doubt be a welcome sight for Club members and racing fans alike. Trainer Steve was pleased with his effort and was happy to see his trademark stretch drive for the first time this year. The first and second placed horses have both hit the board at the $25,000 level this year and the pace scenario wasn’t in Dancer’s favour so when reviewing the race with the head, rather than the heart, this was probably a best case scenario for our boy.

We’ll check back in with Steve in a few days to see how he came out of his race, but hopefully this signals a return to full fitness and a step towards some improved form for Dancer who still has plenty of time to leave his mark on this season.

Fast Bid

“I wish I could bet on that schooling horse!” was overheard from outside of the paddock as our newest Club II acquisition, Fast Bid headed out to meet the Hastings public for the first time.

The five-year-old daughter of Fast Company looked impressive in the paddock and seemed to take everything in stride. She has worked out three times now and trainer Pat Jarvis is just waiting for a spot in the condition book to open up so we can see how she takes to the bullring.

Third Time’s A Charm

Racing Club I members will be looking forward to seeing their blue and white stripes on Sunday as Club stalwart, Square Dancer is entered for his third race of the campaign. After a couple of less than typical performances, Dancer will get a bit of minor class relief, reuniting with jockey Scott Williams in a $16,000 claiming event.

Eagle-eyed observers will be forgiven for double checking the level of the race though, as Dancer is joined by familiar faces from the $25,000 level in the form of Speculator, Highway Boss and City Steel. We’ll quickly run through the remainder of the seven horse field and have a look at how the race may play out.

Square Dancer biding his time along the rail during his last outing.

Breaking from the rail is the lone filly in the race, Convergent who gets in light due to the seven pound allowance from apprentice jockey Learie Seecharan. Her inclusion in this race will likely see her as the wildcard, given her two 2019 starts had come at opposite ends of the Hastings spectrum – finishing second in a $4,000 claiming event on her seasonal debut before a fifth place finish in the Strawberry Morn Stakes. Route races are definitely her forte though, rounding out 2018 with two wins at the $4,000 level by a combined 25 lengths. Whether she can compete against this tough field of boys remains to be seen, however the fact that connections are confident enough to give her this chance to prove herself should not be discounted.

European found the winners circle impressively in his last win. (Photo credit: @HastingsRaces).

European will sitting in gate two, looking to continue a strong start to his season. His record of 1-2-1 from his four starts, is all the more the impressive considering he has changed barns via the claims box in three of those races and will make his first start for Cindy Krasner since she re-claimed him from Dino Condilenios. Despite winning at this level last time out, there will be a question mark over how suitable this trip is however with all of his three career victories coming over six-and-a-half furlongs.

Team Gilker, connections and pony Tommy Danzigger smile for the camera as Rak City shrugs off his Maiden status. (Photo credit: @HastingsRaces).

The remaining new face will be Rak City, who is trained by Rob Gilker. The five-year-old son of Temple City is in his first season at Hastings and after a couple of agonising runner up finishes to start the season, broke his maiden in style last time out. Although he took 17 races to notch his first win, the majority of those were at a higher level down in the tough California circuit and while this may look like a moderate step up on paper, connections will be hoping that finding his preferred distance may have unlocked the gelding’s capabilities.

Scott Williams picks up the mount on Dancer again.

Looking at previous performances, this may end up being a race where there is a lack of action on the front end. With the lack of pace there is a good chance that this event could be decided by which jockey reacts to the race dynamics the best. European, Rak City and City Steel have ran on or just off the pace in the past and whichever one of those three want to take the initiative and set the early fractions will likely do so without much of a contest. This could pose a challenge to the remainder of the field who typically come from mid pack or deeper and timing will be at a premium to ensure the correct amount of patience is deployed.

Looking ahead to Square Dancer’s chances, Club I members would naturally have hoped that a drop in class would have resulted in a softer field for Dancer to face. With the likely dynamics of the race, having Scott ride again for us may prove especially useful as no one on the grounds know’s Dancer’s tenancies and capability better than him. We’ll all be crossing our fingers that with a bit of extra fitness and some racing luck we’ll see a return to form for our Club’s founding member!

Weekend Round-Up: July 7th 2019

For this second time this season the Club I faithful headed out to watch their founding member, Square Dancer, strut his stuff around the Hastings oval. After looking a bit short of race-fitness in his seasonal debut against tough company, the hopes he would make an impact on this $25,000 claiming field were a bit higher, especially after news broke in the morning that The All Button had been scratched (after being nominated to the next weekend’s Stakes race).

Square Dancer, used to the dozens of fans that his races attracts, acts with typical professionalism in the paddock.

After an incident free paddocking session and post-parade, there was a delay to the beginning of the race following the late scratch of City Steel at post time, bringing the field down to only five competitors. Going off as the wagering outsider, Dancer sat off the pace through the opening turn, nestled at the rail alongside Silvertown – while Captain Jones and the favourite, Don’t Hold Me Back went to the front, setting a comfortable opening quarter of 24.29.

Square Dancer, Silvertown and Highway Boss all bide their time down the opening stretch.

Perhaps with memory of Square Dancer’s race a year ago where Don’t Hold Me Back won by five after leading all the way, Dancer’s jockey, Scott Williams decided to force the issue around the second bend, travelling three wide to pull alongside the leading pair. Towards the end of the backstretch, it became evident that the gentle pace the leading two had been afforded would be a good predictor of the remainder of the event.

As Richard Hamel gave his mount the signal, Don’t Hold Me Back quickened around the home turn, leaving only Highway Boss and Silvertown able to follow him. As the stretch drive progressed a few lengths opened between the top three, affording Hamel the chance to give his trademark salute the grandstand as his mount approached the line.

The consistent Don’t Hold Me Back notched up career win seven with Sunday’s score.

In the battle for minor placings, both Square Dancer and Captain Jones were wound down as it become apparent to their riders they would not be bothering the judges. While both would typically prefer a stronger pace and the chance to save their biggest effort for the home stretch, neither could really point to race dynamics as their biggest challenge – as the in form trio at the front of the pack were much the best.

The upper claiming ranks at Hastings can be a frustrating division at times as in form horses appear unbeatable while climbing the ranks, but trainer Steve was optimistic that we’ll be able to find Dancer a good spot soon and get a reminder of why he is the most popular nine-year-old on the grounds.

Scott looks after Dancer down the stretch after failing to mount a bid on the leading three.

DancerĀ²

As Club I members will already be aware, their favourite son – Square Dancer is entered for his second race of the year this Sunday. He will take the five gate in a $25,000 Claiming race and retains Scott Williams as his jockey.

Square Dancer enlists the services of his regular jockey, Scott Williams.

Those looking back to his previous start at the same level will notice that three out of the top four finishers that day are not entered for this event. Both the winner, Absolutely Stylish and runner up, Not Yet benefited that day from the Waiver Claming rules that Hastings employs which meant that they were allowed to run in that race with no risk of changing barns. Dancer will see some returning faces though in Don’t Hold Me Back and Highway Boss who will occupy the two and six spots in the gate.

Occupying the rail position will be Captain Jones, who drops from the $35,000 claiming level. He has a pair of third place finishes in his two 2019 starts, but will be travelling the route distance for the first time this season. He has consistently hung around the higher levels at Hastings with his last win coming at the tail end of the 2018 meet. While he is certainly a consistent contender (hitting the board in five of his last six starts) he has yet to win at this distance.

With the fitness boost form his first run of the season, the Club I faithful will be hoping for a progression on Sunday.

Across in gate three will be the Keith Pedersen trainee, Silvertown. He will be another entrant making his first route start of the year after turning heads in his successful first two sprint outings of the year at the $16,000 and $25,000 claiming levels. After a non-threatening fifth last time out in the same race that Captain Jones ran in, he will be another one who possesses plenty of class but will have question-marks, as all of his five career wins have come at a shorter distance.

City Steel will be coming out of the fourth gate with a slight weight advantage as trainer David Milburn opts to buy down his claiming price to $22,500. The son of City Zip is coming into this race in red-hot form after a trio of wins dating back to 2018. His most recent score saw him best another entrant in today’s race, The All Button in impressive fashion. After stalking the front runner throughout much of the mile-and-a-sixteenth trip he sprung to the lead down the stretch wining by over three lengths. With form and distance not an issue the major question for handicappers to navigate will be whether this slight jump in class will be a step too high for him.

The All Button poses for a picture after his impressive last outing. (Picture – Hastings Racecourse)

The final new contender in this field will be The All Button. The humorously named son of Into Mischief will make his first start for new trainer Mark Cloutier after being claimed by Martin Miller last time out. The new connections would have been smiling from ear to ear that day as they saw their new charge win by 14 lengths in a perfect demonstration of how effective front-running can be around the Hastings oval. Despite the win coming at the $16,000 level, any winner by such a margin is going to attract a lot of interest in their next start. With much of the field looking to sit off the pace or close from deep, the contenders on Sunday will want to ensure that The All Button does not manage to sit on an easy lone lead for too long to prevent a repeat of his last outing.

For Club I members there will likely be some optimism that Square Dancer will be able to build on his first run of the season. Although Sunday’s field contains some talented and in form horses it doesn’t appear on paper to be quite as strong as his seasonal debut which more closely resembled a Stakes field. There have to be attention paid to how the race plays out though, as a shortage of speed in here could see anyone managing get to the lead go from gate to wire.

After the bumper crowd on Canada Day for Club II’s Warrior’s Promise we’re hoping for a repeat event, so do swing by the program table as early as possible to get your name down on the paddock list!

Weekend Round-Up: Canada Day

After a quick drop down to the maiden ranks, Club II’s Warrior’s Promise was back among elite company, against a strong field for the Supernaturel Stakes. After her outstanding displays over the sprint course at Hastings, five competitors were lined up against Summerland to see if the longer distance or her assigned weight of 125 pounds could provide any assistance in besting the star filly.

There was a healthy holiday crowd on hand and the Club II faithful showed up in such numbers the paddock list was completely filled before the first race had taken place. After another impeccable paddock and post-parade, Warrior’s Promise took her starting gate in the three-hole as the betting public’s fifth choice at 15/1.

Club II’s well mannered filly takes in another crowded paddock before getting to work.

Warrior’s Promise broke cleanly and settled into a stalking third position, a few lengths off an uncontested lead set by 1/2 favourite Summerland. This is the fourth time this year these tactics have been adopted on the Club filly and coming past the grandstand for the first time she appeared to be very comfortable with what was being asked of her.

Our Club II filly takes up a familiar stalking spot during her first run down the grandstand stretch.

While navigating the second turn our filly had a bit of a traffic problem as Krissy cut across when passing her, causing jockey Jeff Burningham to have to steady her, costing a length or two in the process. Fortunately he managed to settle her down and she formed part of the chasing pack heading into the final turn. By now, the favourite was taking advantage of the soft fractions she has been afforded and opening up a five length lead which she would maintain all the way to the finishing line.

Warrior’s Promise saved ground throughout the early portion of the race, pictured here going into the clubhouse turn.

The battle for minor placings heated up at the top of the stretch and wagering outsider, Sunburst, was the first to make her move, closely followed by Warrior’s Promise. Both ended the race strongly with plenty left in the tank, but Club II owners had to settle for finishing a couple of lengths behind the Barb Heads trained daughter of Sungold.

With significantly less dirt in her face than in previous races, Warrior’s Promise returns to unsaddle.

The immediate post race reaction was a now typical look of awe towards the occupant of the winner’s circle. Although she had an uncontested lead and could set a comfortable pace it appeared there was going to be no three-year-old filly on the grounds who could get close to her, let alone beat her on Monday.

Club II members have been looking forward to seeing their filly run long for the last month and to her credit she did not disappoint. Finishing strongly down the stretch she showed her determination again and if not being thrown off stride midway through the race, could have been looking at her fourth consecutive runner-up finish. This race hopefully bodes well for the remainder of the season, as being able to run to a similar standard over sprint and distances races is a balancing act that not many at Hastings manage to pull off.

Warrior’s Promise looking justifiably happy with herself after another determined run.