Tice Ranch Stables’ Assessment overcame the unenviable 12 post and took advantage of a hot pace to win the $294,375 Longacres Mile (gr. III) (VIDEO) Aug. 16, handing trainer Howard Belvoir his second straight victory in Emerald Downs’ most prestigious event.
Assessment, ridden by Emerald’s all-time winningest jockey Gallyn Mitchell, had won a pair of stakes in Washington this season, but was sent off at 7-1 mainly due to the 12 post, which had produced just one winner in the past 73 years of the race. With the score, Assessment, a 5-year-old son of Jump Start, earned an automatic bid in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita.
It was the fifth straight year that a locally-based horse won the Longacres Mile.
Assessment was a little further off the pace than usual thanks to a suicidal pace set by Atta Boy Roy, who was coming off consecutive victories at Emerald. Under Ricky Frazier, Atta Boy Roy sprinted to a clear lead, getting the opening quarter in :21.80, a half-mile in :44.00, and six furlongs in 1:07.60. Crafty Power and Sierra Sunset were the closest to the speedy frontrunner in the early stages, while Bank Emblem moved into striking position as they approached the turn.
Atta Boy Roy still had a length advantage at the eighth pole, but as he continued down the stretch, he began to shorten strides. Post time favorite Awesome Gem and Teide were making strong runs, but leading the chase was Assessment, who saved ground early on and was angled out at the five-sixteenths pole for his bid. Assessment took over just inside the sixteenth-pole and went on to win by three-quarters of a length while stopping the clock in 1:33.40 on a ‘fast’ dirt track, just 2/5 seconds off the stakes and track record set by Sky Jack in 2003.
Awesome Gem, the 122-pound high weight, edged out Teide by a nose for second with Russell Baze aboard. Wasserman, who gave Belvoir a victory in the 2008 Longacres Mile, checked in fourth.
“I couldn't have drawn it up any better," said the 47-year-old Mitchell. "I got him to relax for me really well. I told (Belvoir and owner Lou Tice) the 12-hole doesn't bother me at all. (Assessment) has been running his eyeballs out this year. I got to save a little ground and I peeked up and saw the leaders were going pretty fast. Before I knew it I was running them down."
Assessment, fourth in last year’s Longacres Mile, has been in terrific form all season. The dark bay or brown gelding entered the race having won three of six starts in 2009, including the Budweiser Emerald Handicap in June and the Mt. Rainier Handicap on July 26, and was runner-up in his three defeats.
“Gallyn rode him well," Belvoir said. "The race worked out like we planned it. We got a better trip then I thought we would. Not often it goes to plan, but today it went exactly according to plan.
"I picked him out in Kentucky and he's proven to be a very good horse. All he needed was some racing luck. He didn't get it last year, but this year is making up for it. We'll see how he comes back from this race and go from there."
Bred in Kentucky by Bohanon-Walden, Assessment is out of the Silver Ghost mare Native Ghost. He is now 7-4-3 from 25 starts with earnings of $355,980.
The winner paid $16.60, $7.20, and $5.20. The exacta (12-7) returned $60.80 and the trifecta (12-7-8) was $460.
Atta Boy Roy's opening six furlongs were the fastest in the history of the race.