Stablemates Del Rio Harbor, Noosito vie for track supremacy

Del Rio Harbor holds off Noosito in the Coca Cola Handicap at Emerald Downs. - Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
Del Rio Harbor holds off Noosito in the Coca Cola Handicap at Emerald Downs.
— image credit: Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs

Two of Emerald Downs' top 3-year-olds, Noosito and Del Rio Harbor, meet in the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby on Aug. 10.

It will be the seventh time the two horses, both trained by Doris Harwood – the track's leading stakes winning trainer with 64 – have met, with the series split at 3-3.

"I cheer for both of them," Harwood said. "I want them both to have safe trips. It depends on post position, but it's nice to have Plan A and Plan B."

Harwood has been training both horses since 2012.

She said Noosito, a colt and younger brother of 2010 Longacres Mile winner Noosa Beach, grabbed her eye immediately as a yearling.

"We got Noosito back in 2012," she said. "I just had a wonderful feeling about him."

Harwood and her husband, Jeff Harwood, set about putting together a syndicate of five owners – called Last Rose Stables – to acquire the colt.

"Dwayne Weber did the bidding for us and got him for $55,000," Harwood said.

Soon after that, Noosito got his name.

"His groom, Jose Diaz, started calling him Noosito, which means younger brother," Harwood said. "It was appropriate, obviously."

Ridden by jockey Leslie Mawing, Noosito has galloped his way to a 4-1-2 record in seven starts, with three stakes wins and $117,878 in winnings.

"He's not unlike Noosa Beach was at two years, maybe even a better horse," Harwood said. "You can tell he's not yet at his peak. He's got the potential to be bigger and taller than Noosa Beach. We're excited about him. He's lively, like any colt, but not mean. He's a happy horse, kind of like a big puppy."

Although not as promising at the start as his stablemate, Noosito, Del Rio Harbor has made a name for himself, too, at Emerald Downs in the past two years.

Ridden by Gallyn Mitchell, the three-year-old gelding overcame a potentially disastrous start to his career and now, consistently, brings home the bacon for owners Bar C Racing Stables and Desert Rose Racing, LLC.

According to Harwood, Del Rio Harbor's first shot out of the gate was tough on the then-2-year-old.

"He kind of froze out of the gate because he did't know what to do," Harwood said. "He was a little fearful, so I put blinkers on him. In his next race, he broke his maiden and never looked back."

Del Rio Harbor finished 2013, his first season, as the track's best two-year-old. He is currently 6-2-1 in his career with winnings of $165,709.

"He's nice, kinder, which is typical of a gelding," Harwood said. "He's got a real nice temperament and a light mouth. He's a real pleasure to train."

The last time the two horses met on the track was July 13 in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap, when Noosito ran a 1 1/16 of a mile in a stakes record 1 minute, 40.76 second time to edge out second-place Del Rio Harbor.

"Some of them do know when they've won," Harwood said. "Noosito acts a little more coltish. You can tell by his body language."

With both horses sitting at three wins over each other, next Sunday's Emerald Downs derby looks to break the stalemate.

"I am blessed with two of the best 3-year-olds, both coming out of my barn," Harwood said.

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