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Stryker up the band, Mile champ returns Sunday in $50K Budweiser Stakes

June 17, 2016     E-mail this page to a friend!

One of the greatest Thoroughbreds in state history makes his 2016 debut on Sunday, June 19, when Stryker Phd heads a field of 11 older horses in the $50,000 Budweiser Stakes at one mile.

Thus begins a quest for an unprecedented third straight Longacres Mile for the 7-year-old Washington-bred gelding. It also marks the third straight year Stryker Phd has made his season bow in the Budweiser; he rallied from ninth to win the 2014 Budweiser in 1:34.15 (97 Beyer), and rallied from 11th to take last year’s race in 1:35.57 (95 Beyer).

All told, Stryker Phd has won a record tying eight straight stakes at Emerald Downs and enters Sunday’s race No. 8 all-time in state earnings with $518,081 and No. 3 in track history with $469,476.
Although he resumed training in December at Golden Gate Fields,

Stryker Phd had to overcome some relatively minor issues en route to his 2016 debut. Along the way he has logged 13 workouts, seven at Golden Gate and six at Emerald Downs, and assistant trainer Sharon Ross said Stryker is ready for action.

“It has taken a long time to get him ready but actually he’s peaking,” Ross said. “He’s coming up to the race really good. He’s had some stops and starts. He’s had a little issue with an infection and he got another cold the other day, but that all seems to be cleared up now.

“He’s still as big and strong as he was last year. He’s probably a little more anxious to get going since he’s been in training since Thanksgiving. I think he’s ready to get back on a roll again.”

Sunday’s race is far from a free square, however.

O B Harbor enters the fray on a big high, rolling to a 4 ¼-length victory in the May 22 Governor’s Stakes, running 6 ½ furlongs in a stakes record 1:13.59 and earning a career-high 98 Beyer. Noosito, runner-up in last year’s Budweiser, also is back for another crack at the champ, while 2015 Emerald Downs Derby winner Prime Engine and Northwest newcomer The Sandman add depth to the race.

As for pace, Kaabraaj—who set a state record of 1:06.86 for six furlongs in April—figures to blast off from the No. 1 post-position.

“This division is always tough,” Ross said. “Hopefully they’ll bring lots of speed to the race. There’s always a lot of pressure to win The Mile but we try as much as possible to keep the pressure off the horse. It’s certainly a goal of ours to win The Mile but we’ll take it day by day.”

The Budweiser Stakes goes as Race 8 on a 9-race card. Post time is 5:39 p.m.

Betting favorites are 0-for-6 in stakes this year at Emerald Downs. Second betting choices have dominated, winning 5-of-6 including O B Harbor at 3.20-to-1 in the Governor’s Stakes.

Stryker Phd won from the No. 9 post-position in 2015 and the No. 8 post in 2014. He also finished runner-up to Jebrica from the No. 5 post in 2013.

The field for the 21st running of the Budweiser Stakes for 3-year-olds & up, one mile: Kaabraaj, Juan Gutierrez, 118 lbs; Stryker Phd, Leslie Mawing, 122; Go Max, Ronald Richard, 118; Prime Engine, Joe Steiner, 120; O B Harbor, Jose Zunino, 124; The Sandman, Isaias Enriquez, 124; Betrbegone, Javier Matias, 120; Thetrailerguy, Francisco Duran, 120; Absolutely Cool, Rocco Bowen, 122; Noosito, Erick Lopez, 120; Dedicated to You, Eswan Flores, 118.