08/02/2013 3:12PM

Emerald Downs: Ward inspired by quest for Longacres Mile

Barbara D. Livingston
Polticallycorrect, second to Sage Valley in the James Marvin on opening day at Saratoga, is coming to Emerald Downs for the Longacres Mile.

AUBURN, Wash. – Politicallycorrect, a stakes winner in Oklahoma and California and most recently a close second in a stakes at venerable Saratoga, arrived at Emerald Downs on Friday to begin preparations for the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 18. It’s a race his trainer, Northwest native Wesley Ward, would dearly like to win.

“As anyone who grew up in the Northwest knows, you’ve got the Kentucky Derby and you’ve got the Longacres Mile,” Ward said this week from his home base in Florida. “I’m real excited about it. I think I’ve got a really good chance to win the race.”

A homebred for Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Nicholasville, Ky., Politicallycorrect is by the Ramsey’s influential turf sire Kitten’s Joy. But Politicallycorrect is one of the few Kitten’s Joys who seems to be more effective on dirt, and his affinity for the surface was one reason Ward chose the Longacres Mile for his next start. When Ward suggested the race as a possibility for their horse, the Ramseys were all ears.

“I told them about it, and just based on the timing the race comes up good, and this horse, being by Kitten’s Joy, he’s representing his stallion very well on the dirt,” Ward said. “He’s one who’s really shown another dimension to the stallion. And with the Mile being a prestigious race on the West Coast, and for West Coast breeders, I told Mr. Ramsey this was something he should really think about.”

Politicallycorrect has won 4 of 17 starts and earned $451,061. He won his first start after being gelded in January 2012 and has been rolling ever since. In a nifty piece of training by Ward, Politicallycorrect won the nine-furlong Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park last September, and then took the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes at Santa Anita five weeks later. In the Damascus, Politicallycorrect earned his first triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure, a 103. The second came last month at Saratoga, where he earned a 102 for his runner-up finish behind Sage Valley in the Grade 3 James Marvin Stakes at seven furlongs.

From Saratoga, Politicallycorrrect caught a direct flight to Los Angeles, spent a night at trainer John Sadler’s barn, and then was shipped north to Tim McCanna at Golden Gate Fields. McCanna then transported Politicallycorrect to Emerald Downs and will help train the horse in the run-up to the Longacres Mile.

“Timing-wise, I said if we can get the horse out to Seattle early, I’ve got a lot of friends out there who would be able to help us out,” Ward said of his pitch to the Ramseys. “We could get a couple of works into the horse, get him settled in, and he’s coming up to a big race. We’ll be there for close to three weeks and we’ll have a little bit of a home-court advantage.

“He ran a beautiful race at Saratoga, and the Mile seems to be a really good distance for him. He won the Oklahoma Derby at a mile and an eighth, but that might be stretching it just a bit. He might be best at a mile or seven-eighths. He ran a beautiful race in the Damascus on Breeders’ Cup Day at Santa Anita.”

While Ward will have a horse in the Longacres Mile, he will have to watch the race from afar.

“Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make it out,” he said. “I will be in France. I’m taking four horses over there, and I’ve got a horse in a Group 1 over there on the same day as the Mile.”

Ward had yet to nail down a jockey for Politicallycorrect, who will surely be one of the wagering favorites should he start in the Mile.

“That’s a really tough weekend,” Ward said Friday morning. “A lot of riders are tied up on the East Coast and in the Midwest with the Arlington Million weekend, and also in California. With all the riders tied up, I’m reaching out today to see if Aaron Gryder can come down from Vancouver and work the horse. That would be the number one guy for the job right now if we can get him.”

Baffert nominates three for Mile

Nominations for the Longacres Mile close Sunday at midnight, and in addition to Politicallycorrect, the field could be populated with powerful invaders from both California and British Columbia.

Vince Bruun, Emerald Downs’s director of media relations, spent a couple days at Del Mar this week recruiting horses for the Mile and confirmed that trainer Bob Baffert nominated three horses for the race: Fed Biz, Drill, and Liaison. All three are graded stakes winners.

Summer Hit, hero of the Grade 3 All American Handicap at Golden Gate in May, is likely to start in the Longacres Mile for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Batti Man, who most recently finished third after setting a brisk pace in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, is also a possibility.