Wasserman wins another close call, takes Governor’s Handicap

Wasserman added the latest chapter to his remarkable story with a thrilling nose victory over Call On Carson in the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap on Sunday at Emerald Downs.

Wasserman added the latest chapter to his remarkable story with a thrilling nose victory over Call On Carson in the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap on Sunday at Emerald Downs.

In one of the closest finishes in track history, Chhaya Dance was a neck back in third place, and Only One Way was another neck back in fourth, as the top four finishers hit the wire virtually as a team.

As usual, Wasserman rallied from last place for the victory – and as usual, he wasn’t favored in the wagering. Ridden by Jennifer Whitaker at 119 pounds, Wasserman – the only Washington-bred in the race – ran 6 ½ furlongs in 1:14 on a fast track and paid $10.40, $5.20 and $3, as he won the Governor’s Handicap for the second straight year.

“The race set up real well for him, and he was a little closer than normal,” said Whitaker, who has been up for all of Wasserman’s wins. “At the quarter pole, he started to make his move. The last eighth of a mile, he goes as hard as he can, and he did that today.”

Wasserman earned $27,500 for owner/trainer Howard Belvoir and pushed his earnings to $268,471. The 6-year-old now has three stakes victories overall. He also has three wins this season, including another dramatic one in the FSN Handicap on May 26, when he also rallied from last for a head victory over Westsideclyde.

In the Governor‘s, Wasserman was last on the backstretch, as Only One Way led by a half-length while running the first four furlongs in 44 1/5 seconds.

Wasserman gathered momentum on the turn, swung five wide into the stretch, closed steadily through the lane and was up in the final jump.

Nationhood, the 3-to-2 betting favorite, finished fifth.

Belvoir has won the Governor’s three times. He won with Red Eye Express at Longacres in 1974, and at Emerald Downs with Wasserman in 2007 and 08. His goal is to get Wasserman back to the Longacres Mile on Aug. 17.

“He’s just a tryer, a horse who gives it everything he has,” Belvoir said of Wasserman.

NOTES: Seth Martinez rode three winners and hit the 1,500 mark for his career. … Kevin Radke has a 67-56 lead on second-place Ricky Frazier in the jockey standings. … Tim McCanna leads Frank Lucarelli 38-23 in the trainers’ standings. … Racing resumes Thursday with first post at 6 p.m.

Firetrail romps in King County ’Cap

Firetrail took the lead turning for home and drew away late for a four-length victory on Independence Day in the $50,000 King County Handicap for fillies and mares.

With Kevin Radke riding at 116 pounds, Firetrail ran one mile in 1:36 4/5 on a fast track, paying $10.60, $5.40 and $3.40. It was the second straight victory for Firetrail, voted the state’s champion 3-year-old filly of 2007. Junior Coffey is the trainer for Dunn Bar Ranch, LLC.

Shampoo, the 2-to-1 betting favorite ridden by Ricky Frazier at 118 pounds, edged Eclatante by a neck for second place and returned $4 and $3.60. Eclatante, with Debbie Hoonan-Trujillo riding at 115 pounds, was third and paid $6.40.

Kissntheboysgoodby finished fourth, and was followed by Beaulena, She’s All Silk, Cottingham, Mirror Pond, Judicature and Merrily.

Firetrail, who prepped for the King County by winning a one-mile allowance race on June 8, now has won two stakes at Emerald Downs. Last year, she won the John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes. She also was second in the Washington’s Lottery Handicap and in the $100,000 Washington Oaks.

Saratoga Passage dies

Saratoga Passage, the all-time leading Washington-bred money-earner, has died from colic, co-owner Helen Beck said.

Saratoga Passage, who was 23 when he died Saturday, earned $818,212 in a 47-race career that included Grade I victories on dirt and turf.

Mel and Helen Beck bred and co-owned Saratoga Passage with Saratoga I Stable, composed of several of their Whidbey Island friends. The horse was born and died at the couple’s Crescent Harbor Farm in Oak Harbor, and Beck said the chestnut gelding also would be buried at the farm.

Saratoga Passage burst onto the scene in 1987 with a victory in the Grade I Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita. Trainer Robert Leonard, jockey Joe Steiner and the owners all believed they had a Kentucky Derby candidate. However, a respiratory infection derailed those hopes in early 1988, and Saratoga Passage raced only once as a 3-year-old.

Transferred to trainer Bobby Frankel in southern California, Saratoga Passage enjoyed much success as an older horse, capped by a win in the Grade I Eddie Read Handicap on turf at Del Mar in 1989.

Saratoga Passage, voted Washington Horse of the Year in 1987 and ’89, finished with 21 wins, seven seconds and seven thirds in 47 starts.

“He was a big horse with a big heart,” Helen Beck said. “He had a lot of guts.”