04/27/2011 2:10PM

Emerald Downs: McCanna in familiar position atop standings

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AUBURN, Wash. -- Defending his Emerald Downs training title has become a yearly pursuit for Tim McCanna. He has 10 of them in his back pocket, including the past four, and with some 50 horses in training at Emerald, and another dozen at Golden Gate, he has got the resources to bag No. 11.

McCanna, 49, saddled five winners during the first six days of the current meeting to take his familiar spot atop the standings and increase his Emerald career total to 775 victories. That includes 29 stakes triumphs, though he has yet to take down the Northwest’s biggest prize, the Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

Saratoga Boot, a strapping 4-year-old trained by McCanna for owner Gary Hughes, could change that in 2011.

“He’s been doing well,” McCanna said of Saratoga Boot, powerful winner of the nine-furlong Emerald Derby last August. “He’s going excellent, actually. The Mile is our hope.”

McCanna is aiming Saratoga Boot toward the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap on May 22, the season’s first stakes race for older horses. At 6 1/2 furlongs, it’s the only non-restricted one-turn race on the 2011 stakes calendar, and while sprinting isn’t Saratoga Boot’s road game, a strong effort in the Governor’s could vault him into a leading role in the one-mile Budweiser Handicap on June 19, a key stepping-stone to the Longacres Mile on Aug. 21.

McCanna finished second in the Mile last summer with Jersey Town. But after posting a $71.50 stunner in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct in November, Jersey Town is based in New York these days, with the 2011 Breeders’ Cup his primary objective for owner Charles Fipke and trainer Barclay Tagg.

Fipke, a diamond magnate from Kelowna, B.C., has replenished McCanna’s barn with some talented youngsters.

“I’ve got four 2-year-olds and a couple of 3-year-old fillies,” McCanna said. “I’ve got a half-sister to Jersey Town named Jersey Soul, and a full sister to Munnings named Munnings Sister. She worked 35-and-change out of the gate this week and it looks like she can run a bunch.”

McCanna should be well-represented in the 3-year-old male division with Winter Warlock, who captured the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda and finished second in two other stakes last summer. The trainer is high on Ivanho, a Broken Vow colt who’s scheduled to make his career debut at Golden Gate next Saturday.

McCanna kept a string of horses in the Bay Area this winter, a departure from his normal routine, and plans to maintain a presence there going forward. Assistant Pedro Rivera will run day-to-day operations when McCanna is at Emerald Downs or at home in Yakima, Wash.

“We won 20-some races down there this winter and spring,” McCanna said. “We got into a good little heater for awhile over the holidays.”

That hot spell included 5 wins from 7 starters in late November. Winning in bunches is what McCanna does better than anyone else at Emerald Downs. Last July 8, for instance, he saddled five winners on a seven-race card – and four winners in a span of 52 minutes.

Emerald top priority for Lucarelli

Trainer Frank Lucarelli will keep a string of horses in California this summer, joining McCanna, Blaine Wright, and Vann Belvoir as locally based trainers with satellite operations in the Bay Area. Lucarelli, 54, said Emerald Downs will be his primary focus for the next five months.

“I’m planning on being real active here,” he said. “I’ve got a group down south, I’ve got to keep both ends going, but I’ve got 47 horses up here right now, and another eight to 10 heading here soon.”

Lucarelli’s schedule this week: Friday at Emerald Downs, Saturday and Sunday at Golden Gate, and then back to Emerald for the start of business Monday. He plans to spend every other week in the Bay Area this summer.

“Some clients want to run at both places, and then there are certain categories of horses that are tough to run here,” he said. “In this day and age, if you’ve got a big barn of horses, it seems like you need more than one racetrack to run at.”

Lucarelli has been hot at both venues over the past two weeks, winning with 4 of 10 starters at Emerald and with 4 of 13 at Golden Gate. He also saddled horses at Santa Anita, where Gallant Son finished fifth in the Grade 3 San Simeon Handicap, and Hollywood Park.

Gallant Son, a three-time stakes winner at Emerald Downs in 2008, is scheduled to run Saturday, either in a one-mile allowance on the grass at Hollywood Park, or in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate. Gallant Son, who finished sixth in the Longacres Mile last summer, hasn’t won since last April.

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