08/11/2009 11:00PM

Awesome Gem favored in Longacres Mile


AUBURN, Wash. - Awesome Gem drew the number 7 post position and was installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite Wednesday for Sunday's Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

The co-highweight at 122 pounds, Awesome Gem will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze for trainer Craig Dollase. The Longacres Mile winner receives an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita as part of the Win and You're In program.

"The Breeders' Cup is the ultimate goal," Dollase said from Del Mar, where Awesome Gem worked four furlongs Sunday in preparation for the trip north Thursday morning. "And that's the beauty of this horse, his versatility."

A fast-closing second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes on the Del Mar turf July 25, Awesome Gem could get a favorable pace scenario in the Mile, with front-running sprinters Kruger Park (20-1) and Atta Boy Roy (8-1) joining 7-2 second choice Sierra Sunset and 20-1 outsider Crafty Power in the battle up front.

Atta Boy Roy, who won the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap in his last start, drew the number 9 post position, with Sierra Sunset (10) and Crafty Power (11) to his right. Kruger Park, a winner of consecutive sprint stakes early in the meeting, will break from the 3 hole. Berkeley Handicap winner Autism Awareness, the co-second choice at 7-2, drew the 5 hole.

Assessment, a two-time stakes winner at the meeting, was listed as the 6-1 third choice by Emerald's handicapper, Rob Rao, after drawing the 12 post. The 12 hole has yielded just one win from 27 starters in Mile history: Coldwater captured the inaugural running from that post in 1935.

Howard Belvoir, who will saddle Assessment and defending Mile champion Wasserman (10-1), said the outside draw isn't necessarily a death knell for Assessment, who won the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap and the nine-furlong Mount Rainier Handicap from just off the pace.

"What helps is the 9, 10 and 11 are all speed," Belvoir said. "They'll have to gun, so hopefully my horse can drop over. But not too many have won from out there."

Trumpet Player Jay, one of four entries at 115 pounds, won a shake for the final spot in the field. Third in a $62,500 optional claimer at Del Mar in his most recent outing, he will be ridden by Michael Baze for trainer Mark Glatt. Trumpet Player Jay was scheduled to ship with Awesome Gem, arriving in Seattle at 4:30 a.m. Thursday.