08/21/2011 9:47PM

Emerald Downs: Awesome Gem adds Longacres Mile to impressive resume

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AUBURN, Wash. -- Awesome Gem won the 76th Longacres Mile on Sunday at Emerald Downs, defeating local hero Noosa Beach in the Northwest’s Grade 3, $200,000 showcase. Dubbed “the ATM of West Point Thoroughbreds” by trainer Craig Dollase, Awesome Gem pocketed $110,000 to run his career earnings to nearly $2.7 million.

Going in, the Mile was seen as a two-horse wrestling match between Noosa Beach, who had won seven consecutive stakes races in the Pacific Northwest, and Awesome Gem, the globetrotting 8-year-old gelding who has competed in four Breeders’ Cups. Awesome Gem went to post as the 8-5 favorite, with Noosa Beach at 9-5. No other horse in the 11-horse field was less than 9-1.

The winner covered the eight furlongs in 1:34.80 on a fast track, well off Sky Jack’s track and stakes record of 1:33 in 2003. The race unfolded according to form, with Noosa Beach going straight to the lead under jockey Gallyn Mitchell. After dueling with Slew the Man, a recent stakes winner at Pleasanton, though a 46.62-second  half-mile, Noosa Beach inched clear on the second turn, only to get collared by the relentless Awesome Gem and jockey David Flores at the top of the lane. It was clear sailing from there, Awesome Gem cruising to a 1 1/2-length victory.

“That was the horse to follow, and he gave me a perfect target,” said Flores, who won the Mile with Isitingood in 1996, the first year the race was held at Emerald Downs. “After a half-mile, I went after him.”

Noosa Beach, unable to resist the winner, held gamely for the place, two lengths ahead of Posse Power, who was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze. Crew Leader, the leading older horse at Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, finished fourth, followed by 2008 Mile winner Wasserman, J P Jammer, Winning Machine, 2009 Mile winner Assessment, Slew the Man, Honour the Deputy, and Saratoga Boot.

St Liams Halo, expected to the one of the pacesetters, was scratched the morning of the race because of what trainer Mike Puhich said was a minor foot injury.  

Awesome Gem increased his career earnings to $2,688,270 for West Point Thoroughbreds. By Awesome Again, from the Pentelicus mare Piano, Awesome Gem was bred in Kentucky by Runnymede Farm. He has won 9 of 46 starts. The Mile victory was his fifth in a graded stakes race, with the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup his signature victory.