Favored Noosa Beach, dominant locally all year, proved to be too tough for his 11 rivals in the $203,125 Longacres Mile Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) Aug. 22. He won for the fifth time in six starts at Emerald Downs in 2010.
With leading Emerald Downs jockey Ricky Frazier aboard, Noosa Beach overcame a mishap at the start to give top Washington trainer Doris Harwood her first win in Washington's only graded stakes. Harwood and husband Jeff bred the winning 4-year-old Harbor the Gold gelding locally.
"I can't tell you how happy I am to be in the winner's circle with this horse," Harwood told TVG. "It is a dream come true."
Noosa Beach, who always looked like a winner, earned a starting berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, if his connections choose to go in that direction. Noosa Beach is not nominated. About $50,000 of the Longacres Mile purse reverted to the Breeders' Cup fund.
He completed the mile in 1:34 4/5 and defeated Jersey Town by 1 1/2 lengths. Assessment, the defending Longacres Mile champion, finished third, ending trainer Howard Belvoir's bid for an unprecedented third consecutive win in the race.
Noosa Beach cut himself leaving the gate, Harwood said after the race, but was away sharply and settled nicely in second for Frazier as Winning Machine sped from the rail to take the lead.
With Jersey Town, Burj Dubai, and Assessment also stalking in the first flight, Winning Machine showed the way through sharp fractions of :23, :45 4/5, and 1:10 2/5 on a track that had been playing slow all day under cloudy skies. Noosa Beach turned up the pressure on the turn as Assessment and Jersey Town also made their bids, but Noosa Beach came away with a clear advantage in the lane. He held a two-length margin at the eighth-pole and held sway while drifting out late.
Jersey Town, ridden by Kevin Krigger, gained some ground late but Noosa Beach was well in control as they reached the wire. Assessment, with Gallyn Mitchell aboard, was 3 3/4 lengths farther back in third, followed closely by Almost Time.
“I was a little anxious out of the gate,” Frazier said. “Noosa Beach broke great on his first step, but after his second step Gallon stepped straight down on the middle of his foot. I could tell it was bothering him, but I knew that he would fight through it.
“When we reached the stretch, I wanted to see how far I could open up on the field. Noosa Beach ran right by Winning Machine, and I was confident we had the race won. He beat the best of the best. He just does it all. He has shown from the get-go that he is a special horse."
Frazier won his second Longacres Mile.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this race," he said. "I am just starting to let it sink in. I really want to relish this victory.”
Harwood added to her notable career with the victory. She won the $250,000 Favorite Trick Stakes at Monmouth Park with Washington-bred Margo’s Gift in 2007, but said this win was special.
“It feels fantastic, it’s really the highlight of my career,” said Harwood, who began training two decades ago after a riding career at Longacres.
Harwood, 57, is the track’s all-time leader with 47 stakes wins, 38 of which have come in the last four seasons.
Disappointing was second choice Gallant Son, a champion 2-year-old in Washington returning home for trainer Frank Lucarelli after competing successfully the past two seasons in Southern California. The 4-year-old Malabar Gold colt was not a factor while finishing sixth as the 121-pound top weight.
"He had a tough time getting a hold of the track, and he started spinning his wheels a little bit," jockey Leslie Mawing said. "He started to make his move at the half-mile pole, but he never really gave me his usual spurt. It was hard to make up the ground. The leaders were just too far ahead."
First prize was worth $96,250, boosting Noosa Beach's career earnings to $340,590. Noosa Beach had won the Seattle, Budweiser, and Mr. Rainer handicaps at Emerald Downs this season prior to the first graded-stakes win of his career. His only loss of the year came in a neck defeat to Assessment in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap July 11.
Out of the Basket Weave mare Julia Rose, Noosa Beach now owns a 9-3-2 record in 15 starts.
Off as the 9-5 choice, Noosa Beach carried 120 pounds and paid $5.60, $3.80, and $3. Charles Fipke's homebred Jersey Town, making just his second start of the year, returned $8 and $5.20 and completed a $59.20 exacta. Assessment paid $6.60 to show.