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Emerald Downs' mid-term report card | News and notes
For the Reporter
With no stakes races this weekend, your intrepid reporters thought this a perfect time to assess the various division races this season at Emerald Downs.
The month of August, after all, is our equine version of March Madness with championships decided in virtually every category but the 2-year-old divisions.
The 79th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) is set for Sunday, Aug. 24, in a double-header that also features undefeated Stopshoppingdebbie in the $65,000 Emerald Distaff.
And next weekend, sophomore fillies are center stage in the $65,000 Washington Oaks on Saturday, Aug. 9, and Noosito and Del Rio Harbor continue their blossoming rivalry in the 3-year-old colts & geldings division in the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby on Sunday, August 10.
With no further ado, here's our mid-season report card. Reminder: the official year-end honors will be announced Sunday, Sept. 28.
Horse of the Meeting
Vince Bruun, EmD director of media relations – Stryker Phd: Not to knock Stopshoppingdebbie because obviously she's great, but in two starts Stryker Phd has turned in two stakes records and posted the fastest times at both one mile (1:34.15) and 1 1/16 miles (1:40.20). Even more impressively, Stryker Phd has been doing it the hard way, rallying from far back on a track that generally accentuates speed.
Jacob Pollowitz, EmD assistant director of media relations – Stopshoppingdebbie: The rest of the nation is waiting impatiently for Emerald Downs to share this undefeated filly with the outside world. For now, the track will enjoy her stellar campaign for at least one more race when she runs in the Emerald Distaff. She gets the slight edge over Stryker Phd having won three stakes races this season to his two.
Top Older Horse
Bruun – Stryker Phd: In the Mt. Rainier Handicap, Stryker Phd was the only closer to make any impact in the race, and he still won rather easily.
Pollowitz – Stryker Phd: Styker Phd's fashionably late entrance into the older horse circuit has been a breath of fresh air to what was a wide-open division. It's clear that this 5-year-old Bertrando gelding has matured into a graded-stakes quality runner and could be favored in this year's Longacres Mile.
Older Filly or Mare
Bruun – Stopshoppingdebbie: She might be good enough to beat the boys in the Longacres Mile, if Northwest Farms and trainer Tom Wenzel would elect to go that route. But it sounds like they plan to run in the Emerald Distaff and, if all goes well, invade Southern California with an unblemished record.
Pollowitz – Stopshoppingdebbie: It might be a stretch to call Stopshoppingdebbie the Northwest's version of Zenyatta, but I'll reach there anyway. Track announcer Robert Geller said last month that she's the best filly or mare that he's ever called at Emerald Downs and that's good enough for me.
Bruun – I Keep Saying: Why Not Be Perfect set a stakes record in the Governor's Handicap and Stopshoppingdebbie was awesome winning the Hastings Handicap, but 5-year-old gelding I Keep Saying set a world record for 6½ furlongs of 1:12.94 last week and is 2-2-0 in four sprints at the meet, the losses coming to Mike Man's Gold and Disruption.
Pollowitz – Stopshoppingdebbie: Sensing a pattern here? Stopshoppingdebbie is the only horse on the grounds with two sprint stakes wins at the meeting and might be good enough to hold water with some of the best filly or mare sprinters in North America.
Top 3-Year-Old Colt or Gelding
Bruun – Noosito: Trainer Doris Harwood has two sensational sophomores in Noosito and last year's state champion 2-year-old Del Rio Harbor. Noosito leads the season series 2-1 but the overall series is tied 3-3. The Emerald Downs Derby at 1 1/8 miles figures to decide the tile.
Pollowitz – Noosito: Fully disclosing my bias toward this handsome dark bay, but nonetheless Noosito is the right choice. If the vote were who is the best 3-year-old overall, the answer would be a tie. However, Noosito has won two stakes races to Del Rio Harbor's one and that's the only difference. There's a still another chapter to this storied rivalry, and that will be written in The Derby.
Top 3-Year-Old Filly
Bruun – Find Your Spot: With three different winners in three stakes, say the Washington Oaks will decide this division. Canadian invader Ole's Miss impressed in winning the Kent Handicap, but a horse must race here at least twice to be eligible for year-end honors. Find Your Spot already has run three times, winning the Irish Day Handicap and an allowance race before finishing fourth in the Kent.
Pollowitz – Find Your Spot: This is probably the only possible answer in, ironically, the most muddled division. With City By The Bay, winner of the Seattle Handicap, and Ole's Miss, winner of the Kent Handicap, ineligible for this honor, that leaves Find Your Spot with her victory in the Irish Day Handicap as the top choice.
Top 2-Year-Old Colt or Gelding
Bruun – Trackattacker: The 2-year-old divisions are barely under way, and generally aren't decided until the big races in September, but Trackattacker has been awesome for trainer Frank Lucarelli. By Harbor the Gold, Trackattacker already has two wins by a combined 20 lengths, one track record, one stakes record, and Beyers of 74 and 76. Trackattacker is one of the most exciting prospects in Emerald Downs' 19-year history.
Pollowitz – Trackattacker: What a perfect name for a Thoroughbred that has torched the Emerald Downs oval in two career races. Trainer Frank Lucarelli announced last week that Trackattacker would stay at Emerald Downs for the meet's final three 2-year-old races – the WTBOA Lads, DRF Dennis Dodge Stakes on WA Cup Day and the Gottstein Futurity – setting up for the first 2-year-old to sweep the division in track history.
Top 2-Year-Old Filly
Bruun – Ethan's Baby: Ethan's Baby also is unbeaten in two starts including a 6¼-length romp in the Angie C Stakes, and looks like a nice homebred for Todd and Shawn Hansen.
Pollowitz – Ethan's Baby: Ethan's Baby made short work of her opposition last week racing gate to wire in the Angie C Stakes, yet she probably has more proving to do than her male counterpart. Expect more challengers to take this filly on in the Barbara Shinpoch, where she may have to apply a more tactical approach to her running style.
Bruun – He's a Cruiser: With five wins in eight starts, the 5-year-old gelding has a good chance to win the award. However, Cha Cha Latte, Charlie's Gold and Mr. Top Kat have four wins apiece, and 10 horses have won three races each.
Pollowitz – Mr. Top Kat: The obvious choice, based on wins, would be He's a Cruiser. However, my selection is purely based on the premise of "what have you done for me, lately?" Mr. Top Kat has four wins and has yet to finish off the board. In his two defeats, he hopped at the start and still managed to finish within two lengths of the winner.
Top Training Achievement
Bruun – Monique Snowden, Disruption: Full credit to Snowden and owner Heidi Nelson to bring this talented 4-year-old back from a serious knee injury to a possible start in the Longacres Mile.
Pollowitz – Vince Gibson: Veterans He's a Cruiser and He's All Heart combined for one win last year, yet this season, the pair have eight victories – more than any stable mate combination this season. Furthermore, Gibson's 16-for-60 record bests all trainers with a 27-percent strike rate.
Top riding achievement
Bruun – Leslie Mawing: Mawing ranks first in wins, earnings and stakes wins, and has mounts on top horses like Stryker Phd, Trackattacker and Noosito. Mawing also has a five-win day and swept three stakes in one weekend.
Pollowitz – Gallyn Mitchell: Many figured that Mitchell would have retired after suffering a major heart attack in April last year. And while he missed most of 2013, Mitchell has come back this season as the same old "Booger." He's riding 22 percent winners and is just outside the top-5 in the jockeys' standings despite spotting the other riders at least 65 mounts.
Mama Mia! Italian Day returns Sunday
Emerald Downs will don the vertical pales of green, white and red on Sunday as the track celebrates its third annual Italian Day.
Complemented by a 10-race card, Italian Day feature traditional Italian festivities including wine tasting, Bocce Ball, a spaghetti-eating contest, and much more. Courtesy of KZOK 102.5 FM, renowned Italian Danny Bonaduce is expected to make a special appearance.
"Italian Day is growing into a big event," said Joe LaDuca, who runs the track's Newcomer's Center and has spear-headed Italian Day. "We really have a lot of fun, and I'm so happy we can collaborate with Emerald Downs to celebrate the Italian heritage."
Dr. George Todaro, an original Emerald Downs investor, will be the event's honorary steward. Todaro has been one of the nation's most successful Thoroughbred owners and still has dozens of horses competing up and down the coast with Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Speaking of Italian horsemen, many have had tremendous success already this season. Frank Lucarelli, a five-time training champion at Emerald Downs, ranks second in this year's trainers' standings with 31 wins, including a stakes victory with 2-year-old superstar Trackattacker. Lucarelli's younger brother, Vito, is a jockeys' agent at Emerald Downs and books mounts for this year's leading rider, Leslie Mawing, and defending riding champion Isaias Enriquez. And Emerald Downs' trip handicapper Victor "The Predictor" Cozzetti has been offering up a healthy dose of winners this season and his syndicate Vic-Tory Stables has three wins with hard-knocking veteran He's All Heart.
Race fans interested in a full Italian Day package can enjoy the full compliments in the track's View Room on the fourth floor. For $30, adults will receive admission, a Race Program and tip sheet, reserved seating in the View Room and double entrée buffet and service charge and tax. It's half-price for children, ages 5-10, and free for children under the age of five. For more information, call Group Events at 253-288-7700.
Weekly honors: Jockey-David G. Lopez (17-5-1-2); Trainer-Bill Tollett (7-4-0-0); Owner-John E. Parker (2-2-0-0); Groom-Jorge Robles (Blaine Wright); Washington-bred-I Keep Saying (breeders Jill Fabulich & Kay Cooper). ... I Keep Saying earned a career-high 89 Beyer for his world record performance Sunday at Emerald Downs. A 5-year-old Washington-bred by Yankee Gentleman-Arco Iris, I Keep Saying ran 6½ furlongs in 1:12.94 to break Sabertooth's track and world record of 1:13.00. The world record remains in the Jim Penney barn, as Penney conditioned Sabertooth when the then 7-year-old gelding set the former mark on May 22, 2005. ... Ethan's Baby earned a 56 Beyer for her 6¼-length triumph in the Angie C Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. By Offlee Wild-Hope and Vow, Ethan's Baby has won her two starts by a combined 11¾ lengths, and joins 2-year-old gelding Trackattacker as clear-cut leaders in the tracks respective 2-year-old divisions. ... Trainer Mike Puhich debuts two promising 2-year-old colts Saturday in the $17,950 maiden special weight at five furlongs: Legion of Boom – named after the Seahawks' ferocious secondary – is a full brother to multiple stakes winners Del Rio Harbor and Couldabenthewhisky, both state champions and Emerald Downs' champions as 2-year-olds. Wine At Nine, an $115,000 Keeneland purchase, is a half-brother to Fantasy Stakes (Grade 2) runner-up Manuka Honey, and gets leading Leslie Mawing for his debut. Dr. Mark Dedomenico owns Wine At Nine and co-owns Legion of Boom with Glen Todd (North American Thoroughbred Racing Co.). ... Puhich and Mawing also team Saturday with 4-year-old Carving in the $20,475 feature race for $50,000/$40,000 claimers at one mile. The five-horse field includes Jebrica, Assessment, Calculated Chaos and Rocky's Quest. ... Stopshoppingdebbie returned to the worktab Monday, breezing four furlongs in :50.00 in preparation for a likely start in the $65,000 Emerald Distaff on Sunday, Aug. 24. Goin to the Window (:48.60) and Blueberry Smoothie (:49.40) also breezed Monday for trainer Tom Wenzel, as they gear up for another crack at their undefeated stable mate in the Distaff. ... Also Monday, trainer Doris Harwood worked top 3-year-olds Noosito and Del Rio Harbor five furlongs each as the rivals prepare for a showdown in the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby on Sunday, Aug. 10. Noosito was timed in 1:02.60 (breezing) while Del Rio Harbor was timed in 1:00.40 (handily). ... The claiming game was in full swing last week, including Hetty being red-tagged for a meet-high $25,000 by trainer Bill Tollett and owner John Parker. A 4-year-old Cahill Road filly, Hetty earned a career-high 74 Beyer while defeating Beautranda by 4½ lengths in 1:08.13 for six furlongs. Also last week, 3-year-old fillies Point Da Harbor and Quiet Wisdom were both claimed for $15,000, and 3-year-old first-time starter Ain't Tellin was claimed for $12,500. ... Alert Bay, trained by Blaine Wright and owned by Peter Redekop, is 7-to-2 on the morning line in the $200,000 Real Good Deal Stakes for California-breds Friday at Del Mar. ... The Jim Penney-trained Come Away Home seeks a second straight win at Hastings Racecourse and fourth straight overall in a $16,000 starter allowance Sunday for 3-year-olds and up that have started for a claiming price of $8,000 or less in 2014. ... Warm weather prevails this weekend at Emerald Downs, with high temperatures of 88 on Friday, 87 on Saturday and 86 on Sunday. ... And finally, happy 55th birthday to Emerald Downs' track announcer Robert Geller.