09/13/2012 3:41PM

Emerald Downs: Wasserman cuts back in claiming sprint

Emerald Downs
Eight of Wasserman’s 12 victories have come around one turn.

AUBURN, Wash. – Wasserman, on the downside of his career, will meet some horses on the way up Saturday in the feature race at Emerald Downs, a $20,000 claimer at six furlongs. First post time for the eight-race card is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Wasserman, 10, is four years removed from his heyday, when the late-running gelding captured the Grade 3 Longacres Mile and three other stakes races en route to 2008 horse-of-the-meeting honors and a lasting place in Northwest racing lore. He won each of those four races in a photo finish – by a head, a nose, a neck, and a neck – while earning a large chunk of a bankroll that stands at $582,155 after 72 starts.

Howard Belvoir, Wasserman’s breeder, owner, and trainer, said the horse will run for as long as he’s happy. West Seattle Boy, who won a record 21 races at Emerald Downs, was still going strong at age 12. But Belvoir said the lumbering Wasserman takes longer and longer each year to round into shape, and his start Saturday will likely be his final one of the meeting.

The timing could be right for a big effort. While he is best known for his Longacres Mile victory, Wasserman has been a formidable sprinter throughout his career, with eight of his 12 victories coming around one turn. After competing in four consecutive one-mile races this summer, he’ll turn back to six furlongs Saturday, and he’s going in peak form. In Wasserman’s most recent outing, he finished third behind Rocky’s Quest and Newfound Gold while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 85, his best since September 2010. His regular jockey, Jennifer Whitaker, will be back aboard Saturday.

A talented 4-year-old, Rainier Ice, could be the horse Wasserman will have to catch. Rainier Ice rolled to an easy victory in a $32,000 claiming sprint in his first start of the year and then finished a close second behind Winning Machine in the one-mile Budweiser Handicap in June. While he has been sidelined since mid-July, Rainier Ice has been working sharply for his comeback for trainer Tom Wenzel. Juan Gutierrez, closing in on his first Emerald riding title, has the assignment.

Two more 4-year-olds, Tribaltique and Rezar, could make their presence felt, though the most formidable challenger to Wasserman and Rainier Ice is likely to be Seminole Brave, a former stakes winner at Hastings and most recently a game second in a $20,000 claiming sprint on the Longacres Mile undercard. Hastings-based trainer Mel Snow has named William Antongeorgi III to ride.