07/31/2007 12:00AM

Crockett packing serious heat for Mile


AUBURN, Wash. - In the wake of last Sunday's Mile Preview Day racing, it looks as though owner Ron Crockett could be fielding a three-horse entry in the Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19.

Two of Crockett's Mile hopefuls earned their berths in Sunday's $70,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Entrymates The Great Face and Don'twritemeoff finished one-two, with the Tom Wenzel-trained The Great Face leading throughout under a masterful ride by Juan Gutierrez and the Pat Mullens-trained Don'twritemeoff finishing strongly for second.

Wenzel ran The Great Face in the Mt. Rainier instead of the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap on the same card specifically to set him up for the Mile. He hoped a good effort in the Mt. Rainier would help boost the stamina of The Great Face, who was already an accomplished sprinter. The fact that The Great Face not only ran well but won off by 2 3/4 lengths in a sprightly 1:47.40 cemented his place in the Mile.

"It was just what we were hoping for," said Wenzel. "We wanted to get some air into him, and the fact that he won will help his confidence as well. Now I'll just train him up to the Mile. He's a sound horse, so I should be able train him pretty hard. I'd like to sharpen his speed a little more for the cutback in distance to a mile. I look for some heavy hitters to show up for the Mile, and he'll need to be at his very best."

Don'twritemeoff ran 10th to Flamethrowintexan in last year's Mile after finishing second in the Mt. Rainier, and trainer Mullens is hoping that his second-place finish in Sunday's renewal was enough to earn him another shot at the big prize.

"He made a really nice run, and I would think he earned a ticket for the Mile," said Mullens. "I'd sure like to take another shot at it."

With The Great Face and Don'twritemeoff, Crockett will be represented by a very fast front-runner and a powerful deep closer. A versatile stalker would complete an imposing team, and that role should be filled by Raise the Bluff, who won the Emerald Derby last season and Santa Anita's Santana Mile Handicap earlier this year. Raise the Bluff prepped for the Longacres Mile in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 21, and his connections were pleased by his fourth-place finish after a layoff of more than four months.

"Brad Free had an article last week in Daily Racing Form, and he pointed out that horses at Del Mar have been disadvantaged when they are coming off layoffs and when they don't have any works over the new surface," noted Lance Williams, who serves as Crockett's stable manager. "Raise the Bluff had both of those things going against him, yet he was right there with the leaders at the furlong pole. We thought it was a very encouraging effort under the circumstances, and it should set him up nicely for the Mile."

Williams said Raise the Bluff, who was trained by Doug O'Neill in California, will be returned to the care of local trainer Junior Coffey for his Mile preparations.

Blue-collar horse earns stakes credentials

Also earning a shot at the Mile on Sunday was Wasserman, who posted a notable upset when he came from last to win the Governor's by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:14.20 at 11-1. It was the first stakes win for the 5-year-old Wasserman, who had contested 13 previous stakes here and placed in four.

"He has always been a cut below the very best horses here," said owner and trainer Howard Belvoir. "At the same time, I feel like he always has a shot because he tries so hard and he is so consistent. He's a ditch-digger. He comes to work every day."

Wasserman's persistence paid off in the Governor's, as he benefited from a torrid pace set by Flamethrowintexan and Knight's Secret, plus a finely judged ride by Jennifer Whitaker en route to a convincing win.

"It was an ideal race for him," said Belvoir. "Everything set up perfectly, and that doesn't happen very often. Still, he is the kind of horse who can take advantage of that situation. On any given day, he can beat you."

Mare gets job done, too

Beaulena, who won Saturday's Boeing Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, might be considered Wasserman's female counterpart. Always a good horse and a consistent closer, Beaulena won her first stakes last year in Phoenix at the age of 6, and the Boeing was her first local stakes victory.

"She has had some problems along the way," said trainer Richard Wright. "She missed her entire 5-year-old season with a broken splint bone, but she came back good last year, and she is probably better than ever right now."

Beaulena finished third to Sudden Departure and She's All Silk in the one-mile King County Handicap on July 4, but she got revenge on the same rivals in the Boeing. Under Macario Rodriguez, she bided her time behind a fast pace that was fiercely contested by She's All Silk and longshot Light My Ducks, then outfinished Sudden Departure to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 1:42.

"The key was getting her to settle early, then making sure she doesn't drop back on the second turn," said Wright. "She will drop back if you let her, but Macario did a nice job of keeping her in the race and she finished the way we knew she could."

Wright said Beaulena will go next in the $100,000 Emerald Distaff at a mile on Longacres Mile Day, Aug. 19.