04/25/2012 3:41PM

Emerald Downs: Showdown with Noosa Beach may be next for Hollywood Harbor


AUBURN, Wash. -- Hollywood Harbor was full of himself Wednesday morning at Emerald Downs, three days after running 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt faster than any other horse in the history of North American racing.

“He came out of the race great,” trainer Chris Stenslie said of Hollywood Harbor, who has tended to bounce back quickly during his star-crossed 10-race career.

Stenslie said Hollywood Harbor will be pointed toward the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap on May 13 and a possible meeting with two-time Washington horse of the year Noosa Beach. Both horses are from the first crop of Northwest stallion sensation Harbor the Gold, and both now own track records at Emerald – two summers ago, Noosa Beach ran six furlongs in 1:07.

Hollywood Harbor’s effort Sunday was a beauty. After settling in behind the speedy Hayjax through a first quarter in 21.46 seconds, jockey Jose Zunino sent Hollywood Harbor up to challenge the pacesetter on the turn. It was no contest – Hollywood Harbor shot past Hayjax, recording splits of 43.50 seconds for the half and 54.85 for five furlongs before hitting the wire in 1:00.87, comfortably ahead of runner-up Aaron the Baron in a field of six older allowance runners.

His final time eclipsed the previous North American dirt record, set by Rule by Force at Yavapai Downs in 2009, by 0.16 of a second.

Hollywood Harbor’s breathtaking dash received a Beyer Speed Figure of only 92, a concession to the fact that the Emerald surface has been super-fast since the meeting began April 13.

In the 16-year history of Emerald Downs prior to this one, a winning time of 1:02 or faster had been recorded 17 times – and then it happened seven times over the course of five racing dates. On the second day of the meeting, Cat On Base stopped the timer in 1:01.37, tying the track record.

Advancement, Champali Lace, City Twister, Class Included, and Showme Yourfriends also have gone 1:02 or faster at the meeting. Trainers have said the surface has more “bounce” than usual; it’s not a paved highway, they say, it’s more like a trampoline.

Either way, Hollywood Harbor is a fast horse. Maybe as fast as Noosa Beach? Stenslie wouldn’t go that far, at least not now, but she said she’s excited about the possibilities.

“The potential showdown with Noosa Beach would be great for racing,” she said. “To have two Harbor the Golds out there, facing each other on the track.”