08/21/2012 4:45PM

Emerald Downs: Breeders' Cup or vacation in plans for Taylor Said

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Reed Palmer Photography/Emerald Downs
Taylor Said (left) edges Winning Machine in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

AUBURN, Wash. – The owner and trainer of Taylor Said will sit down this week and map out a course of action, or perhaps inaction, for their horse following his rousing victory Sunday in the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

Both Glen Todd, who owns the speedy 4-year-old, and trainer Troy Taylor said they will consider two options: turn out Taylor Said for the winter or aim for the Breeders’ Cup in November at Santa Anita.

Taylor Said recorded his sixth consecutive victory Sunday, his seventh in 10 career starts, while besting runner-up Winning Machine in a prolonged drive that began with about three furlongs to run and ended with Winning Machine inching back toward the winner in the final strides. Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Taylor Said prevailed by a head while running the mile in 1:33.79, a taxing effort that earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Whether Taylor Said, who is based at Hastings, has anything left in reserve to pursue a Breeders’ Cup start has yet to be determined. In the hours after the Longacres Mile, Todd said he had mixed feelings about asking his horse for anything more this year.

“He’s been going for over a year without a break. He had a staph infection. He’s had some problems,” Todd said Monday. “He’s sound, but he’s run hard. Yesterday took quite a bit out of him. We might go to the Breeders’ Cup because it might be our only chance. But we’ll use our heads and let the horse tell us. That was a tough race, and the horse was tired.”

Taylor Said’s victory came at the expense of Winning Machine, the leading handicap horse at Emerald Downs, and capped a whirlwind weekend for Winning Machine’s trainer Frank Lucarelli. On Saturday, Lucarelli was at Del Mar to saddle Stormy Lucy in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks. She lost by a neck at 43-1. On Sunday, Winning Machine lost by inches.

“You know, it’s kind of strange,” Lucarelli said. “Trainers up here, we’re not the Bob Bafferts, with 28 Grade 1 horses in our barns, so winning a Grade 1 on a Saturday and a Grade 3 on Sunday would have been something I could never repeat. It would have been my best weekend in racing. But the flip side is, they ran so good that you can’t be sorry about the way anything turned out.”

Lucarelli said Winning Machine would likely race once more this year, in the Grade 3 B.C. Premiers at Hastings on Oct. 8, and then “chill” for the winter.

“I can’t be disappointed,” Lucarelli said. “It was one of those deals where everyone was telling me congratulations, and I looked like I ran last. As a trainer, I look down the road and wonder if I’m going to get another shot at the Mile for a while. I thought this year was a big shot for me. Who knows what next year will bring. Winning Machine, knock on wood, should come back for another big year.”

While Taylor Said and Winning Machine hooked up on the lead in the Longacres Mile, several others in the field were victims of poor racing luck. Awesome Gem, the defending champion, was forced to steady sharply in a chain-reaction incident nearing the far turn and then, after dropping to last, found himself in tight quarters at the top of the stretch. By the time he and jockey David Flores found clear sailing, it was too late for Awesome Gem, who nevertheless finished third, 1 1/2 lengths behind Taylor Said.

“We never really got a chance to run that last little bit,” trainer Craig Dollase said. “It was an unfortunate trip, but that happens. He made his run, but he didn’t have a chance. We ran out of real estate.”

Also compromised by the pileup at the three-eighths pole was Bailouttheminister, who was seeking his first victory around two turns after some fast sprint scores in Northern California. Bailouttheminister finished gamely under Russell Baze, but the damage was done.

“He tore his right front shoe off right out of the gate, he got ping-ponged around, but to be honest, that’s not an excuse,” trainer Keith Nations said. “He was laying right where we wanted him to be – we were sitting in perfect position. What really irked Russell was what happened around the three-eighths pole. Frank Alvarado took a tight hold of Hudson Landing for whatever reason, I guess because Mario came down on him with his horse, and the next thing you know he’s standing up checking his horse hard. One minute we’re a length back, and the next were six or seven back. And that pretty much eliminated our chance. But in the same breath, Awesome Gem didn’t have a great trip, either – we’re not the only one.”

When Andrew Beyer wrote his definitive text on trip handicapping in the 1980s, he advised horseplayers to watch the action behind the action, to look for traffic-compromised runners like Awesome Gem or Bailouttheminister. They might be good bets next time, but Sunday at Emerald Downs belonged to Taylor Said and his handlers from north of the border.

“Troy and I have been together for 49 years,” Todd said. “He started one in the Mile in the 1960s, but this was the first time we’ve made it to the gate together. That race, in the Pacific Northwest, it means a lot of everyone. It’s a mile sprint, really, and you have to have a pretty good horse to go. Awesome Gem, Bailouttheminister . . . they bring some good horses here. You’ve got to have a good one to even think about winning it.”