The only one not sweating the outcome of the photo and a brief stewards' inquiry into the stretch run was Ron Crockett, the Emerald Downs track president who owns both The Great Face and Raise the Bluff. There was no change in the final order of finish, which had The Great Face on top at odds of 11-2 over the 3-1 choice in a 12-horse field. Crockett won his first Longacres Mile, the Northwest's most prestigious race.
Emerald Downs set a single day track record handle of $3,191,831. The previous record was $3,037,581 set on Aug. 24, 2003 Longacres Mile day.
“This feels absolutely great,” Crockett said. “This is the highlight of my career, which started in 1974.”
The winning trainer is Tom Wenzel, who also won his first Longacres Mile.
A leading sprinter in the Northwest, The Great Face successfully stretched out to win the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap in his last start July 29 in gate-to-wire fashion. With regular rider Juan Gutierrez aboard, they nearly did the same thing Aug. 19. But the 5-year-old Washington-bred Cahill Road gelding was headed briefly by Raise the Bluff, who launched a nifty rally leaving the final turn to threaten from between horses under Southern California jockey Tyler Baze. The two challengers fought it out gamely to the wire with The Great Face, who drifted out slightly through the final furlong, prevailing in a time of 1:35 2/5.
“We got a little unlucky,” Tyler Baze said.
Baze objected to the stewards after the race concerning bumping between The Great Face and Raise the Bluff. The stewards ruled the bumping was not significant enough to change the order of finish.
“I thought there was some slight bumping,” Wenzel said. “But I thought we were OK.”
Now on a three-race winning streak, The Great Face set fractions of :23 3/5 and :46 2/5 and 1:10 1/5 as the rain, which has hit the region hard for two days, held off for the running of the race. Diligent Prospect, ridden by Wilson Dieguez, pressured The Great Face on the backstretch.
“I didn't think we'd get away that easy,” Wenzel said. “I was surprised.”
The Great Face picked up his first graded stakes win and has won four of seven starts this year with one second for Wenzel. In April the gelding tied the Emerald track mark for 5 1/2 furlongs, 1:01 1/5. Overall, the bay is 7-2-1 in 15 starts. The victory, worth $220,000, increased The Great Face's earnings to $337,159.
Patricia Murphy bred The Great Face, who is out of Irish Toast, by Synastry.
Sent off as the fourth choice, the winner paid $13.40, $7.20 and $5.60. Raise the Bluff, making a successful return to his favorite track where he is now four for 11 with three seconds, returned $4.20 and $3.20. The Crockett exacta was worth $67.40. It was 3 1/4 lengths back to Wasserman, ridden by Jennifer Whitaker, who nosed Schoolin You for third and was $8.40 to show.
Gotaghostofachance was next, followed by Trickey Trevor, Norm's Nephew, Sinister Minister, Dilligent Prospect, Don'twritemeoff, Wanna Runner and Courting Seattle.
California invader Gemstone Rush captured the the $100,000 Emerald Distaff two races earlier.
Russell Baze rode the 5-year-old daughter of Wild Rush, conditioned by Jerry Hollendorfer, in the 1 1/8-mile stakes. The 8-5 favorite, Gemstone Rush broke into the lead in the stretch and extended her advantage to nearly four lengths by the finish line, stopping the clock at 1:48 3/5.
There was a stewards' inquiry following the race concerning Gemstone Rush and the pacesetter She's All Silk over whether Gemstone Rush moved over and bothered She's All Silk taking command coming into lane. The stewards ruled there was no foul.
Gemstone Rush paid $5.20, $3.60 and $2.80 for the victory. Fortunate Event returned $8.60 and $4 for second. Beaulena rang up $3.20 for
Coming in fourth was Lady Raj followed by She's All Silk and Sudden Departure.