07/06/2009 11:00PM

Dream Sweeper shows talent


AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs's 3-year-old filly division might have added another stakes-caliber horse Sunday when Dream Sweeper raced to an impressive victory in a maiden race. Making her first start in nearly a year, Dream Sweeper ran six furlongs in 1:09.60, holding off Mizzen You and 4-5 wagering favorite Seeking Ema in the final furlong to prevail by a neck.

Rodney Orr acquired Dream Sweeper for $122,000 at the 2007 Keeneland summer yearling sale, but her story is a little more complicated than that.

Dana Halvorson, a prominent Northwest bloodstock agent who manages Orr's racing operation, originally purchased Dream Sweeper for another client, David Parks, in January 2007, paying $52,000 for the weanling daughter of Salt Lake from the Unbridled mare Turbo Dream. After Parks died several months later, his widow sent the filly to Keeneland, where Halvorson bought her a second time, this time for Orr.

"She was a very attractive filly, a strong filly, and she's got some big pedigree," Halvorson said. "There was a lot of potential."

Six months later, Halvorson and Orr placed Dream Sweeper in the Barretts sale of 2-year-olds in training at Pomona, Calif., hoping to capitalize on the success of her half-sister Dream Rush, a two-time Grade 1 stakes winner in 2007. But when interest fell short of expectations, they bought back the filly for $120,000 and sent her to trainer Craig Dollase at Hollywood Park.

Dream Sweeper made only one start at 2, showing brief speed in a maiden race at Del Mar last July before retreating to finish seventh. Post-race X-rays revealed bone chips in both ankles, and subsequent surgery kept her under wraps for the next six months.

Rather than keep her in California this spring, Halvorson sent Dream Sweeper to trainer Steve Bullock at Emerald Downs, where Orr has about 20 horses in training. Halvorson said Dream Sweeper probably will return to Southern California eventually, though the more immediate concern is finding a realistic spot at Emerald Downs. The next stakes race for 3-year-old fillies is the 1 1/16-mile Washington's Lottery Handicap on July 19, a daunting proposition for a lightly raced filly, and that is followed by the nine-furlong Washington Oaks on Aug. 15.

Further complicating matters, the 3-year-old filly division boasts an undisputed leader, Ladyledue, and several prominent challengers led by Super Dixie, who recorded an 82 Beyer Speed Figure while winning a second-level allowance sprint on June 28 following nine-month layoff. Dream Sweeper received a 66 Beyer for her maiden score Sunday.

Gavica trying his luck at Emerald

Gary Gavica joined the jockey colony last week and rode his first winner Sunday, getting Cherokee Cole home first in a $7,500 maiden claimer for 3-year-olds. Agent Steve Puhich will book riding engagements for Gavica, 45, who will be a familiar face to longtime Northwest racing fans.

"I've been in and out the past 20 years; it's kind of like home for me," Gavica said between races Sunday. "My daughter lives in Spokane, and it's easier for us to see each other than when I was in California."

Gavica rode at Portland Meadows last winter, winning with 19 of his 214 mounts, before heading to Southern California in January. He rode 16 winners at Los Alamitos but struggled to break through at Santa Anita or Hollywood Park, where his efforts working horses in the morning yielded just 26 mounts (and no winners) in the afternoon.

A native of Tijuana, Mexico, Gavica has ridden off and on for the past 24 years. He's been back in the saddle for about two years after a six-year hiatus he attributed to personal problems and lack of focus.

"I was sour and I wasn't doing well," he said. "But I'm focused 100 percent on my career right now. I just want to work hard and win some races."

Gavica, who tacked 116 pounds Sunday, describes his riding style as strong and aggressive.

"I like to finish," he said. "I ride them hard and I finish well."

* With 79 wins through 43 days of racing, Ricky Frazier is on pace to shatter his Emerald season record for victories. At his current pace, he would ride 167 winners at the 91-day meeting. He rode 157 winners in 2007 en route to his third Emerald riding title.

* Trainer Larry Ross said four-time Emerald Downs stakes winner Starbird Road is back in training after suffering a minor foot injury while being shod. Starbird Road, an 8-year-old gelding, returned to the races this summer following a 23-month layoff. He had been considered a top contender for the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 16, but was unplaced in the Seattle Handicap on May 3 and the FSN Handicap three weeks later and now has missed valuable training time. He likely will start next in an allowance race, Ross said.