Pacesetter Halo Steven got pressure all the way on the front end of the $311,838 British Columbia Derby (Can-III) Sunday at Hastings Park, but managed to hang on to win by a nose in a torrid four-horse blanket finish.Under Pedro Alvarado, Halo Steven prevailed in a hard drive by a nose over Woodbine invader Head Chopper in the 1 1/8-mile event for 3-year-olds. Ok Nothanksforaskin, the 7-5 favorite who pressured the winner until the final strides, wound up a neck farther back in third, with Raise the Bluff finishing fourth, another neck behind. The winning time was 1:49 4/5 on a fast track.The Florida-bred bay gelding by Halo's Image out of the Twining mare Talullah won for the sixth time in 11 starts. Barbara Heads trains Halo Steven, a winner of $337,819 after taking down Sunday's winning purse of $169,654, for owners Marta Racing Ventures. Paul and Tamara Hoffner and partners were the breeders.Ok Nothanksforaskin, ridden by Woodbine's leading rider Emma-Jayne Wilson, popped the gate to come away with the lead, but Halo Steven took a head's advantage on the inside after a several strides. He led through honest fractions of :22 1/5, :45 1/5 and 1:10 and maintained his head lead over Ok Nothanksforaskin. Head Chopper, also away smartly for Justin Stein, settled into a tracking position in mid-pack while off the rail. He rallied three wide off the final turn and kept closing on the outside even though Stein lost his whip mid-stretch to just miss. Ok Nothanksforaskin gave way at the end and was nearly nabbed for the show spot by Raise the Bluff, also closing in the middle of the track.Halo Steven, a $19,000 Ocala 2-year-old sale last year, was racing for the first time since being pulled up by Alvarado after a mile of the Canadian Derby (Can-III) at Northlands Park one month ago. He won four in a row prior to that – the last three against Canadian stakes competition – and has never finished out of the money. Sunday's win, however, was his first in a graded race. Sent off as the fifth choice in the 12-horse field, Halo Steven paid $16, $6.70, and $5.50. Head Chopper returned $7.10 and $4.40. Ok Nothanksforaskin was $2.70 to show.Raise the Bluff was followed by The Visualiser, Chile's Quest, Seven Secrets, Mighty Cahill, He's Quite a Guy, Hit It Skip, Bear Character, and Windy Day.(Chart, Equibase)
Southern California shipper Celtic Dreamin successfully invaded Canada for his first graded stakes win in the CAN$263,780 British Columbia Breeders' Cup Derby (Can-III) Sept. 23 at Hastings Race Course.