06/26/2008 11:00PM

To battle big two, Wright sends his own pair


AUBURN, Wash. - Margo's Gift and Gallon sit atop the 3-year-old division at Emerald Downs, and trainer Blaine Wright understands that it won't be easy to knock them off. Consequently, Wright has decided two take two shots at the divisional leaders in Sunday's $50,000 Tacoma Handicap at a mile.

Wright will send out both Easy Going Cecil and Javon Carries On in the Tacoma.

"I'll have one on the lead and one coming from off the pace," said the trainer. "That should give me a chance no matter how the race unfolds."

Wright nearly succeeded in toppling the big two with Easy Going Cecil alone in last month's Pepsi-Cola Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. Easy Going Cecil led to the shadow of the wire and managed to stave off a prolonged challenge from Gallon by a head, but Margo's Gift slipped through along the inside in the final strides to prevail by a neck.

"I cut back the cups on his blinkers after that race, because I don't think he saw Margo's Gift," said Wright. "He had his head cocked toward Gallon on the outside. He might have been able to hold them both off if he had seen them coming."

Easy Going Cecil, a son of Santa Anita Derby winner The Deputy, will have to hold off his rivals for another furlong and a half in the Tacoma, but Wright doesn't feel the task is impossible.

"I've been giving him a lot of longer, slower gallops to stretch him out," said the trainer. "He's a fast horse, but he's not speed-crazy. I think he'll relax, and really there isn't anything in his pedigree to prevent him from going a mile. He has a couple of full brothers who won going long."

Wright was referring to Tommyland, who posted two of his three wins at a mile, and Deputy Spy, who graduated at a mile and eventually won at distances up to 1 5/8 miles.

If, however, Easy Going Cecil fails to get the mile distance, Wright won't be out of chances. Javon Carries On, a long-striding son of Jump Start, is undefeated after two starts and has given the impression he will improve further with distance. In his most recent start, on June 1, he made up five lengths in the final furlong to prevail over allowance rivals by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:17.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

"On the turn I didn't think he'd hit the board, and at the quarter pole I was hoping for third," said Wright. "But when he got to the eighth pole he dropped his head and shifted into another gear. He is still a little green, but he can run a bunch. He'll be giving up a lot of seasoning on Sunday, but it's time for him to test the waters."

Jimmy Da Brick a talented maiden

Another intriguing entrant in the Tacoma is Jimmy Da Brick, who is still a maiden after four starts against special weight company at Bay Meadows and Golden Gate. Jimmy Da Brick, a son of Montbrook trained by Frank Lucarelli, finished third and fourth at six furlongs, then stretched out to a mile while switching to turf and finished third and second. In his most recent outing, on June 4, he was beaten less than a length by A.P. Answer, a highly regarded son of A.P. Indy from the barn of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

"He ran even better than it looks in both of his turf races," said Lucarelli. "In the first one he was blocked in the stretch, and last time he was hung wide on the turn. I don't think it was a case of him liking the turf, though. He isn't really bred for turf, but I had to put him on the grass to get him the distance he needs. This horse wants to route."

Just as Lucarelli didn't really want to run Jimmy Da Brick on grass, he would have preferred not to run him in stakes while still a maiden.

"It's not the way I like to do things, but sometimes you have to adjust," he said. "It's tough to get a maiden special weight race to fill here, let alone one at a mile or more. If I want to route him, this is what is available. I don't think he'll be overmatched, though. He is a nice horse, and he is doing very well right now."

Numbers don't tell story, official says

Bob Leichner, the executive director of the Washington Horse Racing Commission, has been scrambling to correct what he considers misleading information contained in a widely circulated New York Times article published on June 15. The article, which cited Racing Commissioners International as the source for its information, put Washington atop a ranking of states according to equine deaths per start. The article stated that over a five-year period, there were 170 deaths from 39,806 starters for a "death percentage" of 0.427 percent.

Leichner said that only 72 of the deaths in Washington during that period were racing-related, and that the other 98 were from illnesses and natural causes.

Leichner said that Washington has been among the leaders in matters of equine safety, creating programs and adopting rules designed to promote equine safety. Among the rules the commission has adopted is a ban on anabolic steroids, which went into effect on June 1. Leichner said that from June 1-12, urine samples from 194 horses who raced at Washington tracks were tested for anabolic steroids. He said results from 89 of the tests have been received back from the lab, and no steroids were found.