07/26/2012 3:36PM

Emerald Downs: Longacres Mile prep draws Assessment, four others

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AUBURN, Wash. – Preparations for the Longacres Mile will heat up Saturday at Emerald Downs when four horses with designs on the Northwest’s signature race meet in a $21,000 allowance sprint at 6 1/2 furlongs. Assessment, hero of the 2009 Longacres Mile, headlines a field that also includes stakes winners Jebrica, Saratoga Boot, Posse Power, and Goggles McCoy.

Goggles McCoy is the only pretender among them. One of the fastest sprinters in California during his 3-year-old campaign in 2010 – when he won his first four starts, capped by a victory in a $100,000 stakes at Del Mar – Goggles McCoy has descended into the claiming ranks for trainer Frank Lucarelli. But Goggles McCoy, in his role as front-running rabbit, is a welcome addition to the field for the other four, all of which do their best running from off the pace.

One of those closers, Goggles McCoy’s stablemate Posse Power, could start as the favorite, though the betting is likely to be spread evenly among the four contenders. Posse Power is winless in his past 13 starts but ran a powerful race in the 2011 Longacres Mile to finish third behind Awesome Gem and Noosa Beach. A subsequent fall campaign on turf in Southern California failed to pay dividends, and then an injury sent Posse Power to the sidelines for seven months. He returned with a sharp closing effort July 8 in a six-furlong allowance, which was won by Hollywood Harbor in 1:07.23, and could be poised to deliver a knockout closing kick under Leslie Mawing.

Assessment will make his first start since November, when he faded after pressing the pace in the Grade 2 Citation Handicap on turf at Hollywood Park. A four-time stakes winner at Emerald Downs, all for trainer Howard Belvoir, Assessment has ample speed to track Goggles McCoy and profiles as the one to catch in the final furlong. Jennifer Whitaker has the riding assignment.

Saratoga Boot and Jebrica have much in common, including victories in the Emerald Derby. Saratoga Boot captured the local 3-year-old championship in 2010, and Jebrica won it in 2011. Both are formidable at route distances, but also capable of jumping up with big efforts going short. Saratoga Boot finished third as the betting favorite in the six-furlong Phoenix Gold Cup in February at Turf Paradise.

Jebrica won a six-furlong maiden race by seven lengths in his second start at 2, and rallied to finish second behind Winning Machine in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap in his first start this year.