09/24/2010 12:49PM

Emerald trainers ready to break camp


AUBURN, Wash. – Adversaries for six long months, the leading trainers at Emerald Downs will go their separate ways when the meeting ends Sunday, some to Portland, some to Turf Paradise in Phoenix, some to Golden Gate Fields in the Bay Area, and some to a winter spent breaking horses, reconnecting with family, recharging batteries, and reloading for 2011.

With his 10th Emerald training title already secure, Tim McCanna spent most of the past week in Lexington, Ky., acquiring his next wave of runners at the Keeneland September yearling sale. He will be back in full force next spring. In the meantime, he will keep about a dozen horses at Golden Gate under the care of Mark Rheinford, his former assistant and a high-percentage trainer in his own right.

Vann Belvoir, second in the standings with 51 wins entering the final weekend, 12 behind McCanna, has been ramping up his stable at Remington Park, where he has 26 stalls. Belvoir said he will choose between Sam Houston and Oaklawn Park after the Remington meet ends in mid-December, and have a string of horses, but perhaps not his entire operation, at Emerald next summer.

Three-time leading trainer Frank Lucarelli, third in the 2010 standings, will house most of his horses at Golden Gate, with a smaller group at Turf Paradise, and begin sending some of his top runners to Santa Anita when it opens the day after Christmas. Gallant Son, Posse Power, Point of Reference, and some of his leading 2-year-olds could be among them.

Jim Penney and Kay Cooper, who runs day-to-day operations in Penney’s barn, will depart from their usual winter routines. Penney, who had saddled 44 winners through 87 days of the 90-day meeting, had been a fixture in Northern California for the past decade.

“I’m going to give our horses a rest this fall, stay home, break babies, and regroup for next year, for the first time in I can’t remember when,” Cooper said. “We didn’t have enough to go down there full-time, and we want fresh horses for next year. It was hard to claim horses this year, so we’ll go back to Florida in January to buy some.”

Howard Belvoir, tied for fifth in the standings with 42 wins, and Robbie Baze, seventh with 28, are among those moving to Portland Meadows, which launches its 75-day meeting Oct. 4.

Belvoir is returning to Portland for a second season after spending previous winters in Northern California. He will have 26 horses in tow, including Wasserman, who is scheduled to run in the Inaugural Handicap on opening day. Assessment, Belvoir’s 2009 Longacres Mile winner, is being pointed to the $100,000 BC Premiers Stakes at Hastings on Oct. 10.

Charles Essex, who saddled 27 winners this summer but lost some of his best horses to injury, will take a step back this winter.

“I’m going to take it easy,” he said. “I’ll go to Portland Meadows with a couple and maybe take December off. I usually go to Turf Paradise, but I want to give the horses some breaks and try to regroup a little. I might take some to Phoenix later on, but I’ve been down there five years in a row, and I’m a little tired. I just need to rest up some horses and me, and we’ll go from there.”

Larry Ross (26 wins) will set up shop at Turf Paradise, his first winter foray since 2003, when he and his wife, Sharon, had a string in Northern California.

Blaine Wright (22 wins) and Dan Markle (19) are heading to Golden Gate, Wright with about 12 horses and Markle with “a couple of handfuls, maybe 10.”

“They roll out the red carpet for us down there,” Markle said. “They’re glad to have the Emerald horses. We like to shuffle the deck down there, lose a couple and buy a couple, and bring back some fresh ammo for the following season.”

Bill Tollett (19 wins) has 20 stalls at Portland Meadows. He will turn over day-to-day operations to his son, David, and grandson, Trey, while spending more time at home in Renton, Wash. Vince Gibson (17 wins) will split time between Portland, where he has 12 stalls, and his farm in Eatonville, Wash., where he will start breaking yearlings next month.

After a hot finish to 2010, Chris Stenslie (18 wins) will focus on preparing for next season.

“I turn my horses out, take a couple of weeks off, and then start breaking yearlings,” she said. “My favorite thing to do is break babies -  They learn what you teach them, and I really enjoy it.”

Doris Harwood, who saddled eight stakes winners this summer and will get another chance Sunday when she sends out Fueled by Kaffine in the $75,000 Gottstein Futurity, will stick to her normal routine. In a couple of weeks, she will crank back up, preparing yearlings and helping new exercise riders learn the ropes. Shortly after the New Year, she’ll bring back her older horses in preparation for the 2011 meeting. But first, some much-needed R & R.

“Everybody takes a little vacation,” she said. “As you can imagine, we’re all exhausted.”