08/22/2014 12:47PM

Floating Feather on hot streak heading into Pederson Memorial


AUBURN, Wash. – Race 10 on Sunday’s Emerald Downs card – the $22,575 Pete Pederson Memorial at one mile – attracted six horses, with Floating Feather, the dominant stakes runner in Idaho, among the leading contenders. He’ll be ridden by the remarkable Nikeela Black, a 29-year-old Boise, Idaho, lawyer who moonlights as a jockey – the leading jockey – at Les Bois Park.

At 37 percent, Black leads all North American riders this year in winning percentage – she won with 42 of her 114 Thoroughbred mounts at the Les Bois meeting that ended Aug. 9. ESPN.com featured her in a story by Eclipse Award-winning reporter Bill Finley a couple of weeks ago, and Black’s unique story has made her a minor celebrity in southern Idaho.

Trainer Dru Hall claimed Floating Feather at Del Mar last year, and the 6-year-old Lucky Pulpit gelding has won five times since – once at Golden Gate Fields with Russell Baze riding and four times on his home turf in Boise with Black. In his most recent outing Aug. 2, Floating Feather won the one-mile, $30,000 Idaho Cup Classic for statebreds by 6 1/2 lengths.

:: Longacres Mile: Get PPs, watch Sunday's card live

“He’s an Idaho-bred, and the races at home are worth some money,” said Hall, the leading trainer at Les Bois. “That’s why we took him. I know the guy real well who bred him and ran him, and he lost him for $12,500. I dropped on him about three times, and we finally got him for $25,000 a year ago.”

Hall nominated Floating Feather for the Longacres Mile before switching to a race dubbed the Longacres Mile Consolation.

“Between all the owners and me, we said, ‘Let’s go the easiest way we can and try to put some money in our pocket,’ ” Hall said. “We decided on the night before they took entries for the Longacres Mile. The horse is training awesome and doing great, but that other race would have been too tough.”

Black will be charged with trying to outfox a field that includes I Keep Saying, who set a North American speed record for 6 1/2 furlongs in his last start, and Worldventurer, the winner of the 2013 Emerald Downs Derby. I Keep Saying led gate to wire in 1:12.98 and is likely to make a beeline for the front yet again.

“I know there’s going to be speed in there, and it’s a speed-holding racetrack,” Hall said. “We’re going to lay off of the pace a little bit and make a run. That’s how he’s been running – not on the engine by any means but pretty close to the pace. And Nikeela is coming to ride him, which is pretty cool.”