04/24/2013 5:00PM

Emerald Downs: Two top riders missing from action


AUBURN, Wash. – Two prominent jockeys, including Emerald Downs’ all-time leading rider, will be absent when racing resumes Friday with a seven-race card at 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

Gallyn Mitchell, a fixture at Emerald for each of the track’s first 17 seasons, had a heart attack Monday at his home near Enumclaw, Wash., and later underwent emergency surgery at MultiCare Auburn Medical Center. Denise Mitchell, his wife and agent, told track officials that Mitchell was in good spirits and seeing visitors Tuesday while still in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

Mitchell, 50, had seven mounts during Emerald’s three-day opening weekend as he worked his way back from a hand injury that ended his 2012 season last August. He had been scheduled to ride He’s a Cruiser on Friday in the feature race, a $15,000 claiming sprint for older horses.

Also Monday, jockey J. Luis Torres sustained a broken right ankle in a training mishap, and he, too, will be sidelined indefinitely. Torres, 28, was the leading rider at the 2012 Portland Meadows meeting and was seeking to make a breakthrough at Emerald Downs, where he rode two winners Sunday. Torres, who underwent surgery Wednesday morning, had been named on five horses Friday.

Tough Road Ahead, the horse Torres had been scheduled to ride in the feature race, could be the one to beat in a highly competitive field of seven. Trained by Charles Essex for owner Helen Mahre, Tough Road Ahead is poised to make his 2013 debut and first start as a 4-year-old. He worked five furlongs Sunday in 58.60 seconds, the fastest of 37 workouts at the distance.

Tough Road Ahead won 3 of 7 starts last year and finished a distant third in the restricted Chinook Pass Stakes at one mile in his final outing. In his best sprint effort, a 6 1/2-furlong optional claimer in August, he hooked up in a speed duel, running a half-mile in 43.76 and six furlongs in 1:07.77, before yielding to winner Edge Forward in the final strides. Tough Road Ahead was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 81 for that effort and anything close to a repeat Friday would make him hard to beat.

Others in the field are Rezar, who picks up Emerald’s leading rider, Juan Gutierrez, for his season debut; the speedy Marvin’s Magic, who won three times at Emerald in 2012; Dare Me Devil, Advancement, He’s a Cruiser, and Hard Slider.