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Prime Engine seeks elusive victory in $65K Emerald Downs Derby, Belle Hill heads $65K Washington Oaks

August 8, 2015     E-mail this page to a friend!

Heading into $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby on Sunday, August 9, the 3-year-old colt and gelding division remains an unsolved puzzle. The first three stakes, won by Fooled Again, Thetrailerguy and Betrbegone, produced $2 win payoffs of $19, $18.40 and $68.60.

Sunday’s 1-1/8-mile race should decide the track’s best 3-year-old colt or gelding. A victory by either Thetrailerguy or Betrbegone would settle the issue once and for all, and the $41,000 first-place check wouldn’t be too bad either.

But what if Prime Engine prevails? Coming off seconds in the Coca-Cola and Seattle Slew Handicaps, it would be difficult to deny the Northern Afleet colt the title.

Trained by Mike Puhich for Dr. Mark Dedomenico, Prime Engine adds blinkers and switches to jockey Joe Steiner for the Derby. In both the Coca-Cola and the Seattle Slew, Prime Engine relinquished the lead in deep stretch.

“He's run very consistent, but quite honestly I've been pretty disappointed in all three of his starts,” Puhich said. “I've always thought he was the best horse every time I ran him. I've been disappointed with the outcomes but not with his efforts.

“We're going to add blinkers and make a jockey change,” Puhich added. “It's not anything that Leslie (Mawing) has done wrong. We just want to change things up a bit.

“(We're adding blinkers) to get him a little more focused down the lane. It's not like he's getting tired at the end of the race. It's more that he's getting the lead and waiting. I wouldn't be surprised if he's sitting a little closer to the pace.”

The Emerald Downs Derby is Race 8 at 5:39 p.m.

Prime Engine recorded the fastest five-furlong work of the year, :57.20, Monday with Steiner aboard.

Nine of the last 10 winners of the Derby were subsequently voted Top 3-Year-Old Male.
Betting favorites are a lowly 2-for-19 in the Derby at Emerald Downs.

The field for the 78th running of the Emerald Downs Derby: Fire the Trainer, Leslie Mawing; Raspberry Road, Jake Barton; Senna, Rocco Bowen; Thetrailerguy, Julien Couton; Betrbegone, Leonel Camacho-Flores; Percy Fawcett, Gallyn Mitchell; Dedicated to You, Javier Matias; Prime Engine, Joe Steiner. All starters carry 122 lbs.

Belle Hill heads $65K Washington Oaks

Unlike their male counterparts, the track’s 3-year-old filly division has offered few surprises.

Belle Hill reigns supreme, coming off wins in the Irish Day and Kent Handicaps, and is the 7-to-5 morning line favorite. Ethan’s Baby, with seconds in the Seattle and Kent Handicaps, is second choice at 3-to-1, and Suva Harbor—third in all three stakes—is third choice at 5-to-1.

A daughter of Rockport Harbor owned by Gary Barber, Suva Harbor won a pair of two-turn events in Southern California and also won a one-mile stakes at Sunland Park.

“The farther she goes the better,” Puhich said of Suva Harbor. “She just has that one pace, and that should work well at a mile and an eighth.”

Puhich has two entrants in the Oaks. Rastanora, a daughter of Dyanformer, attempts to become the first maiden to win the Oaks. Owned by Paymaster Racing, began her career in England and comes to Emerald Downs following three off-the-board finishes at Churchill Downs.

The Washington Oaks is Race 9 at 5:52 p.m.

Through 13 stakes, average field size is 8.4 horses and average win payoff is $18.60. Favorites are 5-for-14 overall.

The Oaks has been among the track’s most formful events with odds-on winners in five of the last seven years: Lady Fifty Two (2014), Stopshoppingdebbie (2013), Class Included (2011), No Flies On Doodle (2009) and Elusive Horizon (2008).

The field for the 36th running of the Washington Oaks: Ambleside Park, Amadeo Perez, 10-to-1; Rastanora, Gallyn Mitchell, 8-to-1; Ethan’s Baby, Julien Couton, 3-to-1; Suite One, scratched; Cup of Soup, Juan Gutierrez, 12-to-1; Perhaps a Pie, Javier Matias, 8-to-1; Suva Harbor, Joe Steiner, 5-to-1; Belle Hill, Leslie Mawing, 7-to-5. All starters carry 120 lbs.