For the Reporter
Mary Lois rallied inside and rolled to an upset victory Sunday in the featured Valpak Purse for older fillies and mares as Emerald Downs launched its 23rd season of live racing under sun-kissed skies.
Under a rail-skimming ride by Jennifer Whitaker, Mary Lois collared Lovethisbar past mid-stretch and drew away for a 1½-length victory in 1:03.08 for 5½ furlongs. The winner paid $14, $3.40 and $2.40.
Exit Sixty Slew, the 1-5 favorite ridden by Austin Solis, rallied late for second place and paid $2.10 and $2.10, while Lovethisbar held third under Rocco Bowen and paid $3 to show.
Bowen, gunning for an unprecedented third straight Emerald Downs’ riding title, rode four winners Sunday; he swept races four through seven on the 10-race card.
A 9-year-old California-bred mare by Skimming, Mary Lois has a career record of 11-3-9 in 49 starts with earnings of $99,756. Howard Belvoir is the trainer for owner Rick Southall.
Whitaker, No. 8 all-time with 471 riding wins at Emerald Downs, has combined with Belvoir for 334 of those wins.
Record payout in $0.50 pick 5
Sunday’s $0.50 Pick 5 returned a track record $23,306.55 to one winning ticket, topping the previous mark of $22,700.95 set April 10, 2016.
The knockout punches Sunday were first-time starter Spot On at 18-1 in the eighth race and Mary Lois, who upended odds-on Exit Sixty Slew in race nine.
Sunday’s $0.50 Pick 5:
Race 6: Soolaimon ($9.40)
Race 7: Please Be Me ($5.20)
Race 8: Spot On ($39.80)
Race 9: Mary Lois ($14)
Race 10: Desert Black ($9)
Of Good Cheer (No. 8) wins opener
Notes: Of Good Cheer ($21.40) with Patrick Henry Jr. aboard captured the 2018 lid lifter in front-running style, zipping five furlongs in :59.53 for trainer Kay Cooper and owner Homestretch Farms. The winner is a 3-year-old Washington-bred filly by Rallying Cry-Wine and Spirits. For Henry, a native of Jamaica, it was his first career ride at Emerald Downs. … 2017 Claimer of the Meet Wine At Nine ($2.10) resumed his winning ways Sunday with a gate-to-wire score under Rocco Bowen in race four. The 6-year-old gelding, a six-time winner last year, ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:03 for trainer Vince Gibson and Two Putts for the Win #19…Trainer Randy Abrahamson picked up his first Emerald Downs’ victory when Soolaimon ($9.40) rallied to victory in race six. … In addition to Henry, newcomers Gary Wales and Austin Solis also notched their first Emerald Downs’ riding wins. … Wales doubled with wins on Run Scout Run ($18.20) and Desert Black ($9). … Solis, son of Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis, guided first-time starter Spot On to a $39.80 upset in the $18,500 maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies. Trained by Cooper for Blue Ribbon Racing 16, Spot On (Nationhood-Sudden Departure) is a full sister to 2014 Irish Day Handicap winner Find Your Spot. … The eighth race $0.50 trifecta of Spot On (18-1), Gold Supply (27-1) and Perfect Holiday (13-1) paid $1,805.90. … Cooper, Gibson and Jeff Metz all had two training wins Sunday. … In addition to Exit Sixty Slew finishing second at Emerald Downs, trainer Blaine Wright also had action Sunday at Hastings Racecourse, winning with Alliford Bay ($2.40) in the $50,000 Brighouse Belles for older fillies and mares and finishing second with Quick and Silver in the $50,000 Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural for 3-year-olds and up. Blue Law, a double winner last year at Emerald Downs, rallied for a $37.70 upset in the Swift Inaugural, running 6½ furlongs in 1:16.92. … Racing resumes Saturday with first post 2 p.m.