Point Piper, owned by Dan Gatto, Russo Racing, and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, capitalized on a fast early pace to win the $200,000 Longacres Mile (gr. III) Aug. 14 at Emerald Downs and in the process set a track record for one mile at the Washington racetrack.
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Point Piper covered the distance in 1:32.90 on a track rated fast. It was the fifth victory in 24 starts—and his first since late August 2015 at Del Mar—for Point Piper, a 6-year-old horse by Giant's Causeway out of 2001 Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) and Irish One Thousand Guineas (Ire-I) winner Imagine, by Sadler's Wells.
The Longacres Mile, named for Emerald Downs' predecessor, drew a field of 11 including heavy favorite O B Harbor, an Oregon-bred 4-year-old gelding by Harbor the Gold who had won three consecutive stakes at Emerald Downs, including the Budweiser Stakes at one mile. O B Harbor as expected took the lead in the Longacres Mile under Jose Zunino and set quick fractions for the two-turn event.
The leader went the opening quarter-mile in :22.66 and a half-mile in :44.70 with Prime Engine chasing several lengths back in second. By the time O B Harbor passed the six-furlong mark in 1:08.76, Cyrus Alexander and Point Piper had begun picking off horses from the back.
Cyrus Alexander, winner of the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) and also trained by Hollendorfer, got the jump on Point Piper but couldn't hold him off in the stretch. Point Piper drew way and defeated his stablemate by 4 3/4 lengths.
O B Harbor was another three-quarters of a length back in third, followed by Alert Bay in fourth and two-time Longacres Mile winner Stryker Phd in fifth. Point Piper paid $12.80 to win and capped a $61.40 Hollendorfer-trained exacta.
Point Piper was eighth at the half-mile call, but Gutierrez indicated he wasn't concerned.
"He was relaxed," the rider said. "He broke good and he had a good trip. Everything opened up for us and he exploded in the stretch."
"It's really amazing," Gatto said in the winner's circle. "We flew all the way from San Diego for the race. We really wanted 'Super Mario' to ride this horse, because every time he rides for us he wins. (Assistant trainer) Dan Ward kept assuring me, 'He's going to win, he's going to win.' Well, he was right."
Point Piper, bred in Kentucky by Barronstown Stud, has kept good company this year. He finished fifth in the Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), third in the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II), and fourth in the Californian Stakes (gr. II).