07/19/2012 3:32PM

Emerald Downs: Mt. Rainier may be right spot for Couldabenthewhisky to end drought

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AUBURN, Wash. – It has been a long dry spell for Couldabenthewhisky, now more than 14 months removed from his last victory. But after a strong effort in his most recent outing, he will merit a long look from handicappers Sunday when he starts in the $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap at Emerald Downs.

The Mt. Rainier, at 1 1/16 miles, is the last stakes preliminary before the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19. The Mt. Rainier field came up a little bit lighter than in recent years – there’s no Noosa Beach, for one thing – and Couldabenthewhisky has never run a bad race around two turns. But before there’s any talk of an appearance in the Mile, trainer Bonnie Jenne would like to see a representative effort from her 4-year-old stable star.

In his last start, Couldabenthewhisky finished second in a six-furlong allowance race behind Hollywood Harbor, who smoked the distance in 1:07.23.

“I think he ran a much-improved race,” Jenne said of Couldabenthewhisky, the champion 2-year-old at Emerald in 2010 and a winner in five of his first seven career starts but now a loser of seven in a row. “It was the race he probably should have been running all year long.”

“He tied up before he ran in the Governor’s,” Jenne said of Couldabenthewhisky’s lackluster fifth-place finish in the Governor’s Handicap on May 20. “And then I missed the next stake because his red blood cell count was too low. Then I ran him in the prep and he ran his race. He just can’t run that fast. But now he’s going farther, so we’ll see what happens.”

Couldabenthewhisky has two victories and two seconds, all in stakes races, in five starts at route distances. He captured the Gottstein Futurity at Emerald Downs in his final start at 2, was second in the Emerald Derby last year, and then fifth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths, in the B.C. Derby at Hastings. Jenne said it has been a challenge to keep the horse sharp in the transition from ages 3 to 4.

“It’s driving me crazy, I can tell you that,” Jenne said. “The first time I ran him this year he wasn’t fit enough, and the second time he tied up. Maybe he isn’t as good as he was, but he just ran with Hollywood Harbor, so I think he is. We’ll know a lot more Sunday. But we have to have some speed in the race. If there isn’t any speed to go with Rainier Ice, we’re all going to be in trouble.”