Matias returns with momentum in the saddle | Emerald Downs

Javier Matias picked up the pace as one of Emerald Downs
Javier Matias picked up the pace as one of Emerald Downs' top jockeys.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Emerald Downs

Jockey Javier Matias, arguably the Northwest's hottest rider, brings his momentum back to Emerald Downs, to keep his sizzling streak alive.

Coming fresh off a 74-win, title-claiming season at Portland Meadows, Matias has forcibly turned his riding career around over the past 1-1/2 years, after seasons of mere mediocre success.

In fact, two years ago, nobody – not his agent, not even himself – could have predicted the incredible success that Matias would soon achieve at the Auburn oval.

"I've always known that I was a good rider," Matias said. "But I was just waiting for trainers to put me on their horses."

Even though Matias worked hard everyday and had even proven himself earlier in his career with a 65-win, third-place finish in 2001, and had some solid efforts at Portland Meadows. He still didn't get the opportunities he hoped for at Emerald Downs. That is until last year, when former jockey and now trainer Vann Belvoir, known for finding talent in Thoroughbreds, spotted a polished veteran, and a perfect fit to ride No. 1 for his barn.

"Matias is my man," Belvoir said to start the 2011 season.

Matias didn't disappoint, winning 27-of-146 starters – two stakes races – for Belvoir and finishing the meet with 52 wins. Agent Keith Drebin said he knew that his jockey's hard work would eventually pay off.

"For jockeys, sometimes it's just a matter of getting the opportunity," Drebin said. "For a top-notch jockey, like Vann (Belvoir) was, it said a lot when he asked Javier (Matias) to be his rider. Now, Matias has proven that even an older, journeyman rider can still revive his career."

Mile champ could be back

Longacres Mile champ Awesome Gem returned to action Thursday – after a 7-month layoff – to win by a half-length in a $38,500 allowance race at Golden Gate Fields.

Most importantly, Awesome Gem, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, started a 2012 campaign that could eventually land the Kentucky-bred back at Emerald Downs on Sunday, Aug 19 and defend his title in the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade III). In fact, trainer Craig Dollase said the chances for a return are quite good.

"We are just taking one race at a time, but that's definitely a possibility," Dollase said. "We have (The Mile) on our radar."

At 9-years-old, Awesome Gem would become he oldest horse ever to win The Mile. In last year's edition, it was Awesome Gem's bankroll of $2,688,270 that set a record and made the gelding the richest horse ever to race in the state. The victory was sweet revenge for Awesome Gem, who had finished second to Assessment in the 2009 Mile.


The weather report keeps getting better for Emerald Downs heading into it's 17th season opener on Friday. The forecast predicts partly sunny skies for the entire weekend, with both Friday and Sunday's temperatures expected to surpass 60 degrees. ... Winning Machine, Top 3-Year-Old of 2009, will face a full 12-horse field Sunday in the $50,000 George Royal Stakes at Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C. ... Emerald Downs' Leading Rider Leslie Mawing will ride the Toccet gelding for training champ Frank Lucarelli. ... Last year's winner Noosa Beach, two-time Horse of the Year, will likely make his 2012 debut in the $50,000 Governor's Handicap on May 20, according to trainer Doris Harwood. ... Saturday's fifth race – $20,000 claiming race for fillies and mares – has the look of a classic feature race, as 2010 Federal Way Handicap winner Feeling Fancy will face off against Perfect Pie who finished first or second in 7-of-8 races last season and was the only horse to beat Top Claimer Touch of Elegance. The actual feature race is headed by 8-year-old Olympic Lights, who is tied for second with Chickasaw Park – behind Noosa Beach – for most active Emerald Downs' wins at 12 apiece. ... John and Janene Maryanski's Gadget Queen, a stakes-winning Washington-bred, was bred to Heatseeker on April 8, according to trainer Blaine Wright. ... Race entries for Friday, April 20 will be taken this Friday, April 13.

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