The victory by the 6-year-old Washington-bred son of
"It's an unbelievable feeliing," saide Whitaker. "At no point did I think I was going to win. It is special (being the first female rider to win the race). I want to thank (owner/trainer) Howard Belvoir for all he has done for me."
Although Wasserman is one of the most popular horses to race at Emerald Downs, he has not gone off as the favorite in his last 33 starts. In the Longacres Mile, he was sent off at 10-1 in the 12-horse field, paying a generous $22.40.
One statistic going against him was that he was winless in 18 starts at a mile or over. But on this day he would not be denied, as he rallied from far back under patient handling from Whitaker and gamely outfought the multiple stakes winner True Metropolitan, who had been first or second in his last nine starts, all stakes, and the heavy favorite Tropic Storm, the West Point Stable-owned 4-year-old who had placed in the grade I Triple Bend Handicap and Ack Ack Handicap in his last two starts.
Whitaker had ridden Wasserman in 21 of his last 22 starts, and owner-trainer-breeder Howard Belvoir said Whitaker “is like a daughter to me.” Belvoir added to his bankroll by saddling the fourth-place finisher, 67-1 shot Assessment.
It also was a big day for
The field broke in good order, with Flamethrowintexan, who won the 2006 Longacres Mile and was making his first start in 385 days, opening a clear lead, followed by Tropic Storm, Call on Carson, and Honour the West. Flamethrowintexan continued to lead through testing fractions of :22 1/5 and :44 3/5 before being challenged on the far turn by Tropic Storm.
True Metropolitan was launching a big run from the rear of the pack, followed closely by Wasserman. Flamethrowintexan hung on gamely through six furlongs in 1:09, but Tropic Storm finally wrested command after turning into the stretch, opening up a length advantage. True Metropolitan came charging up on his outside, with Wasserman bearing down on the two leaders, as Whitaker went to series of right-handed whips. Wasserman stuck his head in front 70 yards from the finish and was able to maintain his short lead to the wire, winning by a neck over True Metropolitan in a hard-fought finish. It was another neck back to Tropic Storm, who was six lengths in front of Assessment. The final time for the mile was a solid 1:35 flat.
“It was a really good trip,” Whitaker said. “Going into the first turn I had to take a little more hold than I wanted to, but he settled down a little bit. Down the backside, I had to shove my way out to get him in the clear so he didn’t have to eat much dirt, and he was right there. I was just hoping I could run faster than those guys on the lead. In the final furlong I was just trying not to jump off.”
“This horse tries every time,” Belvoir said. “I really appreciated all the cheering for him. He has a good fan base and I think everybody roots for him. He just ran an outstanding race; he knows how to win.”
By winning the Longacres Mile, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and Your In” race, Wasserman has secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, but Belvoir said it is doubtful he would supplement the gelding, stating, “I don’t think the chances are very good.”
With his victory, Wasserman has now won eight of his 38 career starts, with nine seconds and five thirds for earnings of $415,971.