07/27/2011 3:45PM

Emerald Downs: Hollywood Harbor in need of prep for Longacres Mile


AUBURN, Wash. – Hollywood Harbor is the fastest horse at Emerald Downs not named Noosa Beach, but that doesn’t make him an automatic starter when the Grade 3 Longacres Mile is renewed for the 76th time on Aug. 21. Trainer Chris Stenslie said the Mile is being considered for Hollywood Harbor, but getting him to the race in peak condition could be a challenge.

“We’re not committed one way or another,” Stenslie said this week. “The difficulty is the lack of a suitable prep. If he ran this week, he’d have to run for a claiming tag, and we don’t want to do that. If they wrote a straight allowance, I don’t think it would fill.”

Hollywood Harbor, the leading 2-year-old at Emerald in 2009, has staged a remarkable comeback from injuries that limited him to just one start – a last-place finish in a minor stakes race at Hollywood Park in April 2010 – during a 20-month period. He has started three times in 2011 and won his past two starts. Most recently, he dominated an optional allowance in which he ran 6-1/2 furlongs in 1:13.80 and earned a 93 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that could translate into a competitive start in the Longacres Mile.

If Stenslie and owner Jody Peetz elect to bypass the Mile, the only remaining stakes opportunity at the Emerald meeting would be the $40,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 18. The Longacres Mile purse is $200,000.

Meanwhile, the list of possible Mile contenders continued to evolve. Southern California-based trainer Craig Dollase said he is considering the race as possible destination for multimillionaire Awesome Gem, who finished second behind Assessment in the 2009 Mile. Dollase said the 8-year-old gelding, third in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic and victorious in the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup, would at least be nominated.

“It’s a possibility, one of the races we’re considering,” Dollase said.

Two horses from Hastings – Crew Leader and St. Liams Halo – are likely for the Mile, as is Slew the Man, a recent stakes winner on the Northern California fair circuit. Additional starters could emerge after the running of the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on Saturday. Kevlar Kid, trained by Carla Gaines, posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 in a second-level allowance at Hollywood Park in his last start and is expected to be one of the top contenders in the San Diego.

Nominations for the Longacres Mile close Aug. 7