In these early days of the 2019 Thoroughbred season at Hastings Racecourse, trainer Phil Hall has won three of the six stakes races.
The first two came on opening day May 4 in the Brighouse Belles and Ross McLeod.
Hall appears to be taking things in stride, since scoring stakes victories in recent years has become a habit, but Sunday was different.
“This is special,” Hall said after winning the $50,000 George Royal with Peter Redekop-owned 5-year-old gelding Awhitesportscoat. “This is the one race I've wanted to win for a long time.”
Phil's late father Robert W. Hall and Vancouver furniture dealer Ernie Hammond purchased Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1976) and BC Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1986) George Royal for $1,500 in 1961. The B.C.-bred won nine consecutive stake races as a 3-year-old in 1963 and finished his illustrious career with earnings of $323,693.
“I wasn't around at that time but I've heard all the stories and I know what he meant to our family,” Phil said in the winner's circle Sunday not far from where a bronze statue of George Royal majestically stands today in the paddock area at Hastings.
It couldn't have been a coincidence that Hall just happened to be wearing the closest jacket to white he has in his wardrobe.
Awhitesportscoat, making his first start at Hastings, was in control under jockey Enrique Gonzalez, winning by 2 ¾ lengths in a final time of 1:17.08 over six and one half furlongs for three-year-olds & up.
Hall was quick to thank fellow trainer Blaine Wright for gift-wrapping Awhitesportscoat and shipping him to Hastings from Emerald Downs.
“This is pretty cool,” Hall said. “I'm always confident when Blaine sends a horse my way. Today I just saddled the horse. All the credit goes to Blaine.”
With the win, Hall leads the trainers standings with 10 victories this year and Gonzalez has tied Amadeo Perez at the top of the jockey ladder with 12 wins each.
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