It was another CTHS Sales Stakes 'game day' under the lights Friday at Hastings Racecourse and for a short time Ryan Nugent-Hopkins appeared to be on his way to first star status, something hardly new to him as a key player with the NHL Edmonton Oilers.
The Burnaby-born Nugent-Hopkins was the center of attention in the winner's circle after another convincing victory by Infinite Patience in the $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes for two-year-old fillies. The Nuge and co-owner/breeder Bill DeCoursey have now watched Infinite Patience go undefeated in three starts, all with jockey Antonio Reyes under the talented and watchful eye of trainer Barbara Heads.
“There just doesn't seem to be any slowing her down,” Heads said of the overwhelming favorite who paid $2.10 across the board with a gate-to-wire four-and-three-quarter length victory in a final time of 1:18.05. It was the second stakes win in a row for Infinite Patience, having won the BC Cup Debutante by just over 11 lengths.
Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall NHL draft pick in 2011, will soon be driving to Edmonton for the opening of the Oilers' camp. He will be accompanied by recent bride, Breanne, his teenage sweetheart from his days as a Red Deer Rebel.
The Nuge stepped out of the spotlight Friday night to make room for Phil Hall, who continued his masterful run in the Leading Trainer standings with four more wins including the co-feature $50,000 CTHS Sales Stakes in the colts and geldings division for two-year-olds.
Hall and owner Peter Redekop had two horses entered, fully expecting BC Cup Nursery winner At Attention to dominate things only to have their 13-1 longshot Above the Moon go wire-to-wire in a final time of 1:18.78, paying $29.70, $4.90, $2.60. “He was supposed to run second but he didn't know it,” Redekop joked.
Hall, capably assisted by daughter Sara, now has 44 wins on the season as he firmly locks up his third consecutive Leading Trainers title.
Jockey Enrique Gonzalez was aboard Above the Moon for his second of two wins on the night to maintain his lead in the rider standings with 39 on the season. Fittingly, things will come right down to the wire with Richard Hamel and Antonio Reyes tied for second at 37 and defending champion Amadeo Perez firmly in the mix with 36 wins. Perez won three on the eight-race card, Gonzalez and Reyes each scored twice while Hamel was skunked.
Live racing resumes next Friday Night at 7 p.m. on the eve of the Saturday's BC Derby/Oaks Day card that includes the SW Randall Plate and Delta Colleen with $450,000 in stakes purses up for grabs highlighted by the 74th running of the $250,000 BC Derby and $100,000 BC Oaks. Saturday's biggest day of the season at Hastings Racecourse will begin at 12:50 p.m.
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