08/17/2011 3:54PM

Emerald Downs: Noosa Beach, Awesome Gem on outside for Longacres Mile

Four-Footed Fotos
Noosa Beach, with Gallyn Mitchell up, wins the George Royal, one of seven straight stakes victories in the last 13 months.

AUBURN, Wash. – Noosa Beach drew post 11 and was installed as the 2-1 morning-line favorite when entries were taken Wednesday for the 76th renewal of the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Sunday. The defending Mile champion and highweight at 125 pounds, Noosa Beach headlines a full field of 12 that also features Grade 1 winner Awesome Gem, 2009 Mile champion Assessment, and the top two handicap horses from Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia. Mile post time Sunday is 5:50 p.m. Pacific.

LONGACRES MILE AT EMERALD DOWNS: Live streaming video of the entire card, plus video preview, news, analysis & PPs

Noosa Beach has won seven consecutive stakes races over the past 13 months. Trainer Doris Harwood said that Noosa Beach is approaching the Mile just as planned. He worked five furlongs in 1:02 this past Sunday with regular rider Gallyn Mitchell aboard, a maintenance drill that Harwood said was designed to ensure that Noosa Beach “could stretch his legs and not kill himself between now and Sunday.”

Harwood, who trains Noosa Beach for her husband, Jeff, said the 5-year-old Noosa Beach is a better horse today than he was a year ago, when he defeated Jersey Town by 1 1/2 lengths in the Longacres Mile. That effort that was flattered when Jersey Town won the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct three months later. But the combination of a daunting weight assignment – he’ll carry three more pounds than $2.5 million earner Awesome Gem – and an outside post position are concerns.

“I was absolutely shocked at the weights,” Harwood said following the post-position draw, while stopping short of guaranteeing that Noosa Beach would start in the Mile. “It’s unfair. Awesome Gem has won three times the money this year. He’s posted Beyers in the 100s, and we’ve never done that even once. If Noosa Beach wins the Mile after all that, he deserves to go to the Breeders’ Cup.”

Awesome Gem, fifth in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup in his last start, was marooned in post 12, a spot that has yielded just two winners in 75 previous editions of the Mile. Awesome Gem finished second in the 2009 Mile, less than a length behind Assessment, after racing wide. Trainer Craig Dollase said saving ground will be of utmost importance, but to do so, Awesome Gem likely will have to ease well back of horses going to the first turn.

St. Liams Halo, a two-time stakes winner this summer at Hastings, drew post 3. His recent nemesis, Crew Leader, who defeated him by a nose in the S.W. Randall Plate on July 17, will break from post 10.

LONGACRES MILE AT EMERALD DOWNS: Live streaming video of the entire card, plus video preview, news, analysis & PPs