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Full Field of 12 Entered to Contest $300,000 Longacres Mile (Gr. III)

August 15, 2008     E-mail this page to a friend!

Tropic Storm Morning Line Pick over True Metropolitan
By Vince Bruun, Emerald Downs

West Point Thoroughbreds’ Tropic Storm drew the No. 2 post position and was set as the 5-to-2 morning line favorite in Sunday’s $300,000 Longacres Mile (Gr. III).

Thirteen horses were entered—one over the maximum—and Schoolin You won a blind draw with Maxey Boy that determined the 12th and final spot in the race. High weights are preferred and those two runners were low-weighted at 110 pounds each.

True Metropolitan, who will be the starting high-weight at 122 pounds, was unlucky at the draw and will be marooned in post-position 11. Only one horse has ever won from way out there—Bolulight in 1992—and it took a brilliant ride by the late Ron Hansen to get the job done.

Nevertheless, True Metropolitan (37-18-7-4-$1,040,056) has exceptional speed and might be able to avoid a compromising wide trip under jockey James McAlaney. A two-time Sovereign Award-winner as Canada’s best handicap horse, True Metropolitan, a 6-year-old Florida-bred gelding, is the 3-to-1 second choice on the morning line.

Tropic Storm (11-4-3-2-$227,300), meanwhile, will attempt to become the 11th horse to win from the two-hole. Also a Florida-bred, Tropic Storm is being targeted for the Breeders’ Cup by trainer Craig Dollase and West Point Thoroughbreds. Since the Longacres Mile is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race, a victory would guarantees them an entry into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile in October at Santa Anita.

Fay Webb and Jeanette Kirschman, two of the partners in the West Point syndicate that owns Tropic Storm, attended the Mile draw breakfast and said they’ve already secured tickets to the Breeders’ Cup.

“We’re optimistic,” said Webb, a resident of Lake Bay, Washington. “(West Point) is a great organization. They’re good business people and they keep you well-informed.”

Although Tropic Storm and True Metropolitan will be favored, recent history suggests we keep an eye out for the locals, as Emerald Downs-based horses have won the last three Miles.

Wasserman at 5-to-1 and Nationhood at 6-to-1 on the morning line would appear to have the best chance at continuing the trend.

Wasserman (37-7-9-5-$278,471) is one of the most intriguing stories in this year’s race. Owned, bred and trained by Howard Belvoir, the 6-year-old gelding would be the second straight Washington-bred by Cahill Road to win The Mile, following in the footsteps of 2007 winner The Great Face. Although he has enjoyed a marvelous campaign with two exciting stretch-running stakes victories, The Mile is almost certain to mark the 35th straight race in which Wasserman won’t be the betting favorite.

On a more tangible level, Wasserman is winless in 18 career races at one mile or longer. Grim as that sounds, Wasserman finished third behind The Great Face and Raise the Bluff in last year’s Mile, and he just finished a game second in the 1-1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap on July 27. So it isn’t as if he’s completely inept around two turns.

Nationhood (21-8-4-2-$181,820) has been a study in consistency for trainer Mike Chambers and owner Cander Racing. The 6-year-old Kentucky-bred by Cherokee Run has won two stakes at the meet—including the one-mile Budweiser-Emerald Handicap—and has won five of seven starts at Emerald Downs.

“He’s on his game, sharp and ready to run,” Chambers said of Nationhood. “He’s had a long campaign, but he’s resilient. He’s ready to roll.”

Chambers is in the midst of a sensational season at Emerald Downs. The 61-year-old Seattle native has won with 29 of 84 starters—35 percent—and a Mile victory would be his crowning achievement. In three previous Miles, Chambers’ best finish was a second by Hesabull in 1997.

Other Longacres Mile news & notes

Trainer Ted H. West arrived from California on Thursday and will saddle Luhuk’s Dancer in The Mile. Assistant trainer Sergio Martin will handle the duties for Tropic Storm. Both horses arrive Thursday, and Tropic Storm will stay in Tom Wenzel’s barn at Emerald Downs. Wenzel was the winning Mile trainer last year with The Great Face.

Speaking of The Great Face, his owner, Emerald Downs President Ron Crockett, said the horse is recovering nicely from ankle surgery and vowed the Washington-bred would be back as a 7-year-old in 2009. “At about 5:38 p.m. on Sunday, there will be someone as thrilled as we were last year,” Crockett said.

It wouldn’t be a Longacres Mile without a Baze involved, and this year is no exception. Cousins Russell and Gary Baze have their work cut out, however, as both will be aboard long shots. Russell rides Southern Africa (25-5-4-3-$738,588) at 20-to-1 and Gary has the call on 2006 Mile champion Flamethrowintexan (28-15-4-2-$806,017) at 15-to-1.

Russell Baze, of course, is North America’s all-time leading jockey with 10,234 wins through August 12. Russell has ridden three Mile winners, second only to Gary’s five.

Flamethrowintexan certainly has the right connections in his corner. Jim Penney has trained a record five Mile winners and Gary Baze has ridden a record five Mile winners. And, of course, Flamethrowintexan knows a little about the Mile himself, having won the race in 2006 after an epic stretch duel with Papi Chullo. That totals up to an amazing 11 Mile victories in the Flamethrowintexan camp.

Owner Jeffrey Sengara and his family drove from Vancouver, B.C. on Wednesday morning to attend the Mile breakfast, arriving in time for the second half of the draw. Sengara’s Budroyale captured the 1999 Longacres Mile, finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and earned over $2.7 million. Not bad for a $50,000 claim. This year Sengara hopes to strike gold again with Luhuk’s Dancer, a 5-year-old B.C.-bred he claimed for $80,000 last month at Del Mar. Sengara became emotional while reminiscing about Budroyale’s Longacres Mile. “It was surreal,” he said. “I wish everyone could have a feeling like that.”

Emerald Downs Vs. Shippers: Keeping Score of the Mile

Have you ever wondered how the local horses stack up against invading hot shots?

According to Gary Dougherty, Seattle Times handicapper and statistical guru, since 1996—the first year The Mile was run at Emerald Downs—the “shippers” lead the “locals” by a 58-38 score.

(Dougherty defines “shippers” as horses not stabled at Emerald Downs and “locals” as horses based here for the majority of the season. In his points system, a first-place finish is worth five points, a second-place finish two points, and a third-place finish one point.)

Although the shippers still have a 20-point lead—they swept the first three runnings to open a 24-0 cushion—the locals have been making up ground faster than Wasserman in the FSN Handicap. First-place finishes by No Giveaway in 2005, Flamethrowintexan in 2006 and The Great Face in 2007 have the locals on the comeback trail.

The field for the 73rd running of the $300,000 Longacres Mile (with jockey, trainer, weight, morning line)

1—Southern Africa, Roy Lumm, Russell Baze, 113, 20-to-1
2—Tropic Storm, Craig Dollase, Aaron Gryder, 118, 5-to-2
3—Luhuk’s Dancer, Ted H. West, Kevin Radke , 115, 6-to-1
4—Wasserman, Howard Belvoir, Jennifer Whitaker, 118, 5-to-1
5—Schoolin You, Vann Belvoir, Gallyn Mitchell, 110, 30-to-1
6—Diligent Prospect, Charles Essex, Kate Repp, 112, 20-to-1
7—Nationhood, Mike Chambers, Seth Martinez, 119, 6-to-1
8—Flamethrowintexan, Jim Penney, Gary Baze, 116, 15-to-1
9—Honour the West, Jim Penney, Leslie Mawing, 113, 20-to-1
10—Assessment, Howard Belvoir, Juan Gutierrez, 113, 20-to-1
11—True Metropolitan, Terry Jordan, James McAleney, 122, 3-to-1
12—Call On Carson, Dan Markle, Ricky Frazier, 115, 20-to-1