Defending champion Noosa Beach and leading challenger Awesome Gem drew the far outside posts in a field of 12 entered for Washington's $200,000 Longacres Mile (gr. III). The signature race at Emerald Downs is Aug. 21.
This year's Longacres Mile, to be televised by TVG and locally by CSN, is the eighth race on the Emerald Downs program with a 5:39 p.m. PDT probable post.
In spite of the poor draw, Noosa Beach, in post 11, was made the 2-1 favorite in the main track event, with $2.5 million earner Awesome Gem, stuck on the far outside, pegged at 5-2.
Post 11 is 1-for-41 in the Longacres Mile, the only victory by Bolulight in 1992. Post 12 is only slightly better at 2-for-28 with victories by Coldwater in the inaugural 1935 running and Assessment in 2009.
Noosa Beach, looking for his eighth consecutive win for trainer Doris Harwood, is the 125-pound high weight, while Awesome Gem carries 122.
“We won the race from post number 5 last year, so it would have been a good omen to get it again,” Harwood said. “Post number 11 shouldn’t be a problem because he’s got enough speed to get out of there. I’d much rather have him on the outside than the inside. He’s a long-striding horse, and the last thing he needs is to get into trouble on the inside.”
Noosa Beach, Washington's Horse of the Year in 2010, was bred by Harwood and her husband, Jeff. The 5-year-old son of Harbor the Gold races in the name of Jeff Harwood.
The gelding won last year's Longacres Mile in front-running fashion, defeating Jersey Town by 1 1/2 lengths. Assessment finished third for trainer Howard Belvoir and owner Tice Ranch and will try it again this year.
Belvoir is also represented by his 9-year-old Wasserman. The son of Cahill Road won the Mile in 2008 and will be making his record fifth consecutive appearance in the race. Belvoir's duo will face a tall order to defeat Noosa Beach, who won six of seven starts in 2010, including five stakes, and is 4-for-4 so far this year. Noosa Beach has won a record 11 stakes at Emerald Downs.
Noosa Beach raced a little sluggishly in winning his most recent start, the Mount Rainier Handicap, by a half-length under 126 pounds July 24. But he has perked up in the mornings, including a recent :57 3/5 five-furlong drill, Harwood said. He completed his preparations for the race Aug. 14 with a five-furlong move in 1:02 2/5.
Gallyn Mitchell, the jockey who maneuvered Assessment to a perfect trip from the 12-hole two years ago, has been the only rider of Noosa Beach this year. Noosa Beach brings a lifetime mark of 14-3-2 in 20 races with earnings of $480,722. He is 13-of-18 at Emerald Downs.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Awesome Gem is making his first start at one mile on dirt since finishing second to Assessment in the '09 Mile, his only previous start at Emerald Downs.
Trained in Southern California by Craig Dollase, the 8-year-old Awesome Again gelding generally prefers a little more ground, though he handily won the 1 1/16-mile Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) May 30. He is coming off an even fifth-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) July 9, a race he won in 2010.
Awesome Gem, to be ridden by David Fores, has raced 45 times in his career, winning eight and finishing in the money on 19 other occasions. He has been in the top three in 17 graded events and will be the richest horse to ever run at Emerald Downs. In addition, four of his victories and six other placings have come in 14 starts on natural dirt.
Other contenders in the full field are Slew the Man (8-1), St Liams Halo (10-1), Crew Leader (10-1), Winning Machine (12-1), and Honour the Deputy (12-1).
Slew the Man, a 4-year-old Washington-bred son of Slewdledo trained by Jeff Bonde for Alan Klein and Philip Lebherz, is coming off a 1 1/4-length win in the Alamedan Handicap at Pleasanton July 4. Fourth in last year's Emerald Downs Derby, Slew the Man has won or placed in seven of his past nine starts. Frank Alvarado rides the dark bay/brown gelding from post 9.
Hastings Park invader Crew Leader also drew outside in post 10 for trainer Dino Condilenios. Owned by Swift Thoroughbreds, the 4-year-old son of Pulpit is coming off a nose victory over St Liams Halo in the S.W. Randall Plate Handicap at Hastings July 17. He has won three of his four starts in 2011.
St Liams Halo, who will be saddled by Mike Puhich, defeated Crew Leader two starts back in the Lt. Governors Handicap July 1. The son of Saint Liam was the odds-on choice over his rival in a game try most recently; his loss in the Randall Plate snapped a four-race win streak.
Winning Machine has been second to Noosa Beach in his two most recent starts, including a big effort in the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Ranier last time out. Frank Lucarelli trains the 5-year-old son of Toccet for Fleur De Lis Stables. Second to Noosa Beach four times in his career, Winning Machine ran fifth in last year's Longacres Mile. The bay gelding won the 2009 British Columbia Derby (Can-III) at Hastings.
Honour the Deputy seeks his first stakes win for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the 2004 Mile with Adreamisborn. He has been second in the Tokyo City Stakes (gr. III) and fourth in the Mervyn LeRoy Handicap (gr. II) this year.
Russell Baze, a three-time winner of the Longacres Mile--most recently on Adreamisborn--rides Posse Power, who is also trained by Lucarelli. Claimed for $50,000 out his last start July 27 at Santa Rosa, the 4-year-old Posse colt breezed a bullet four furlongs in :45 2/5 at Emerald Downs Aug. 17.
$200,000 Longacres Mile Handicap (gr. III, Race 8, 5:39 p.m.), 3 & Up
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer, ML Odds
1. Posse Power (KY), R A Baze, 115, F Lucarelli, 15/1
2. Assessment (KY), J M Gutierrez, 117, H Belvoir, 15/1
3. St Liams Halo (FL), M Gutierrez, 120, M Puhich, 10/1
4. Honour the Deputy (FL), K Krigger, 117, J Hollendorfer, 12/1
5. Saratoga Boot (AR), J A Crispin, 116, T McCanna, 20/1
6. Winning Machine (KY), L Mawing, 117, F Lucarelli, 12/1
7. J P Jammer (CA), P M Terrero, 114, K Seal, 15/1
8. Wasserman (WA), J Whitaker, 112, H Belvoir, 30/1
9. Slew the Man (WA), F T Alvarado, 119, J Bonde, 8/1
10. Crew Leader (KY), C Hoverson, 118, D K Condilenios, 10/1
11. Noosa Beach (WA), G V Mitchell, 125, D Harwood, 2/1
12. Awesome Gem (KY), D R Flores, 122, C Dollase, 5/2