07/20/2012 4:27PM

Emerald Downs: Shippers look strong in Mt. Rainier

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AUBURN, Wash. – A couple of new shooters will take a local test drive Sunday in the $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap, the final stakes preliminary at Emerald Downs before the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19. The 10-race program begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Hudson Landing, who last started in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on the turf at Hollywood Park, and St Liams Halo, based at Hastings in Vancouver, British Columbia, will make their Emerald Downs debuts in the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier, a race that has served as an accurate predictor of success in the Longacres Mile. Flamethrowintexan (2006), The Great Face (2007), Assessment (2009), and Noosa Beach (2010) all parlayed victories in the Mt. Rainier into subsequent victories in the Mile.

Hudson Landing, trained by Blaine Wright for owner Jared Chappell of Alpine, Utah, has been a revelation since being claimed at Golden Gate for $50,000 in February. The 5-year-old by Maria’s Mon won his first three starts after the claim, capped by a victory in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile on the turf. Hudson Landing then was third in the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap on the synthetic Tapeta at Golden Gate before finishing a troubled seventh in the Shoemaker Mile. He last raced on conventional dirt more than two years ago, when he missed by a nose in a maiden race at Gulfstream Park.

Wright said the Mt. Rainier will give him a chance to see if his stable star can adapt to another new surface, though those concerns might be unfounded. Hudson Landing has started at eight different racetracks during his 31-start career and been competitive at every venue. Frank Alvarado, who finished third in the jockey standings at Golden Gate, will be in from Northern California for the ride.

Mario Gutierrez, who steered I’ll Have Another to dramatic victories in the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, will be aboard St Liams Halo for trainer Troy Taylor. While he is winless in three starts this year, St Liams Halo has posted a string of flashy Beyer Speed Figures while coming up short behind stablemate Taylor Said in each start. Owners Glen Todd and Patrick Kinsella could have a powerful one-two punch in the Longacres Mile if St Liams Halo runs a big race Sunday.

The newcomers could have their hands full with Winning Machine, a two-time stakes winner at the meeting and the top local Mile contender. Winning Machine captured the one-mile Budweiser Handicap in his last start, and was a close second behind Noosa Beach in the Mt. Rainier last summer. Javier Matias has the riding assignment for trainer Frank Lucarelli.