08/31/2012 3:48PM

Emerald Downs: Jebrica will try regroup for Muckleshoot

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Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
Jebrica will try to find his way back to the winner's circle in the Muckleshoot.

AUBURN, Wash. – Jebrica was a hot horse going into the Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19 at Emerald Downs, but the combination of an outside post position, a sluggish start and a wide trip relegated the 2011 Emerald Derby champion to an eighth-place finish. Jebrica came out of the race in good order and will get a chance to get back into the win column in what should be a much easier test, the $40,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic on Sept. 9.

The Muckleshoot is the centerpiece of the Washington Cup, six stakes races restricted to horses bred in the state, with $215,000 in purse money attached. But with a dwindling supply of statebreds, the fields are likely to be crowded with mid-level claimers with designs on black type and a bigger paycheck, and legitimate stakes runners such as Jebrica will be few and far between.

Only four horses bred in Washington – Makors Finale, E Z Kitty, Italian Boy, and Mike Man’s Gold – have captured unrestricted stakes races this year at Emerald Downs.

Kay Cooper, who runs day-to-day operations for trainer Jim Penney, said she anticipated a more competitive effort from Jebrica in the Longacres Mile. Jebrica was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for his victory in the Emerald Derby last August and cruised to an easy victory in an allowance sprint in his final tune-up for the Mile. He broke from post 9 under Juan Gutierrez.

“Obviously, we were disappointed. He was going into the Mile very well,” Cooper said. “The post may have hurt us, but that first quarter-mile was too slow. The horse right beside us blew a shoe, and those first three or four jumps going a mile, it’s all about positioning, and we didn’t get it. From there on, we were just trying to catch up.”

Jebrica can finish the Emerald meeting on a positive note with a victory in the Muckleshoot. Among his adversaries will be stablemate Kooky Saluki, who has won two consecutive $32,000 claiming races. Couldabenthewhisky, a multiple stakes winner coming off his best effort of the year in an allowance sprint on the Longacres Mile undercard, also is expected to compete.

Cooper, who in addition to training is heavily invested in her family’s breeding operation, said the Washington Cup remains a worthy program despite negative trends in foal production and the inevitable decrease in field sizes. In 1991, Washington ranked fifth in the nation in foal production with 1,717. By 2010, that number had declined to 356 foals and a No. 14 ranking nationally.

“I understand the Washington Cup, though it’s hurting us right now with filling races, because people are holding horses back,” Cooper said. “But it will be an exciting day, and it’s nice to see Washington horses are being rewarded. It entices people to get involved and keep breeding Washington-breds. We’ve got a beautiful facility. Now we’ve got to get owners more enthused about buying the horses.”

Local pair to Hastings

Winning Machine, the top older handicap horse at Emerald Downs, and Class Included, the leading older filly or mare, are ineligible for the Washington Cup and will make their next starts at Hastings. Trainer Frank Lucarelli has the Oct. 8 B.C. Premiers in his plans for Winning Machine, while Cooper said Class Included will run next Sunday in the Delta Colleen Stakes at nine furlongs.

“I just nominated her for the race in Canada on the 9th, the same day as the Washington Cup here,” Cooper said Friday. “If she runs well, and handles the racetrack, which she has in the past, we’ll shoot for the Ballerina, which is a mile and an eighth for $100,000, on Oct. 8. So it’s kind of race by race with her.”

Class Included is by Include from the stakes-winning mare A Classic Life. A homebred for Mike and Amy Feuerborn of Maple Valley, Wash., she has developed into one of the most consistent performers in Northwest racing history, finishing first or second in each of her 14 starts while earning $292,573.

“She’s an awesome filly,” Cooper said. “She loves her job, and she does it well. She’s been a very healthy and sound individual, and she’s smart. From Day 1, just like her mother, she caught onto things, and enjoyed doing things, whatever it was you asked of here. She likes the challenge.”

Mike Man’s Gold has work cut out

Mike Man’s Gold will attempt a difficult double when he starts in the six-furlong Dennis Dodge Stakes on Washington Cup Day, and then wheels back for a start in the one-mile, $65,000 Gottstein Futurity on Sept. 23. Only two horses – Jumron Won in 2000 and Koala Beach in 2009 – have won both races.

The leading 2-year-old male at Emerald Downs, Mike Man’s Gold is undefeated in three starts – a five-furlong maiden race, the Premio Esmeralda Stakes at six furlongs, and then the 6 1/2-furlong WTBOA Lads Stakes on Aug. 18, when bettors finally got wise and made him 9-5. Mike Man’s Gold paid $42.80 in his maiden victory, and $20.20 when he took the Premio Esmeralda.

A homebred for Keith and Jan Swagerty of Auburn, Wash., Mike Man’s Gold has earned $59,318 in his brief career and could exceed $100,000 with victories in his final two starts.

“We’re going to go in the Washington Cup, and if he comes back well, we’ll go for the Gottstein,” trainer David Martinez said this week. “He’s scheduled to work Monday, and he’s ready to run.”

Mike Man’s Gold, by Liberty Gold, is a half-brother to No Flies On Doodle, who captured a pair of two-turn stakes races, including the nine-furlong Washington Oaks, in 2009. He has improved steadily since being placed into training in early May.

“I think he’s way better now,” Martinez said. “He’s very strong. When he works, he pulls all the way. I think he’s a good horse to go a mile.”