Washington-breds will be out in force Sept. 14 at Emerald Downs as the track features Washington Cup VI—a series of seven races worth $350,000 in purses.
Longacres Mile winner Wasserman was entered in the $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. The all-time leading earner at Emerald Downs with $396,234, Wasserman is a 6-year-old gelding.
Owner/trainer Howard Belvoir also considered the six-furlong $50,000 Chinook Pass Sprint for Wasserman, but decided to enter Immigration in the short race and Wasserman in the longer one.
Wasserman will be making his third straight start in the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic. He finished third in 2007 and was second in 2006, but wasn’t quite the same horse then that he is now. The son of Cahill Road has exploded in 2008, becoming the first horse ever to win three photo finishes in stakes races while also running meet-best times at 5 ½ furlongs, 6 ½ furlongs, and one mile. The latter, of course, was accomplished in breathtaking style with a neck victory over True Metropolitan in the 73rd edition of the $300,000 Longacres Mile.
As usual, Wasserman (38-8-9-5-$415,971) will be rolling late under regular rider Jennifer Whitaker. But he will have to catch Hired Hand, a speedy and sharp 4-year-old who has three front-running victories this year. Six horses are entered in the Classic, which is the eighth of 10 live races.
"There doesn’t appear to be a lot of pace in the race," said Belvoir, tied for first all-time with three Washington Cup wins. "Everyone knows the one-horse (Hired Hand) has speed, and he’ll be tough. (But) Wasserman has trained well. He’ll be tough."
Wasserman is likely to be favored for the first time since July 4, 2005, a span of 35 races. The gelding was 10-1 in The Mile, but he and Whitaker were rewarded with a huge ovation when entering the winner’s circle. Belvoir still gets goose bumps when talking about the scene.
"The reception was amazing," he said. "The other best feeling is the statue in the paddock. It will be there all year."
Each year the lawn jockey in the paddock is painted with the colors of the winning horse in the Longacres Mile. So now every time Belvoir visits the paddock to saddle a horse, his own red and black silks with the pirate logo greet him.
As for the favorite’s role, that will certainly be new. "I’m glad it’s my horse they’re idolizing," he said. "It adds some pressure, though."
A total of 51 horses are entered in the Washington Cup events, which compose races three through nine on the Sunday card.