07/28/2005 11:00PM

Governor's the right Mile prep for Sabertooth


AUBURN, Wash. - While the $100,000 Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap has the featured slot in Sunday's inaugural Longacres Mile Preview Day card at Emerald Downs, the only participant who has actually won the Grade 3 Longacres Mile will prep for this year's renewal in Sunday's $40,000 Governor's Handicap.

That's Sabertooth, who won the 2002 Longacres Mile after prepping in the Mt. Rainier, in which he finished second to Moonlight Meeting. Trainer Jim Penney and his assistant, daughter Kay Cooper, said there were two reasons why they decided to prep Sabertooth in the Governor's this time. First, they wanted to keep him away from his stablemate and fellow front-runner, Flamethrowintexan, who will contest the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier. Secondly, they knew Sabertooth could flat-out blister the 6 1/2-furlong distance of the Governor's.

Sabertooth proved that much May 22, when he won the FSN Handicap in 1:13 to set a world record for the distance. Off that remarkable effort, Sabertooth was bet down to 4-5 in the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 19, but he could not hold off Mr Makah's late charge after opening a long early lead and had to settle for second.

Despite the setback, Kay Cooper and her husband, exercise rider Bryson Cooper, said they believe that Sabertooth is coming into the Governor's in peak form.

"He's back to his best," said Bryson Cooper. "He worked a really strong six furlongs last Sunday, and he nearly pulled my arms off when I was galloping him [Friday] morning. He's ready."

Sabertooth will have only four rivals Sunday, including stablemate Diamond View. Diamond View has run most of his races on the lead, but when he was entered against another front-running stablemate, Salt Grinder, in the six-furlong Old Glory Handicap on July 4, his connections decided to experiment. Rider Ricky Frazier wrestled Diamond View far off the pace, and he came running late to win at 19-1.

"We may have discovered his best style that day," said Kay Cooper. "He ran huge, and I would expect him to move forward off that race. They usually improve the second time you ask them to rate. He'll know what to expect this time, and hopefully he'll cooperate a little better with what the rider wants to do."

Salt Grinder will prep for the Longacres Mile in Monday's B.C. Cup Sprint at Hastings Park.

"We've tried to keep our Mile horses apart as much as possible, at least the front-runners, and it has worked out pretty well," said Kay Cooper. "The key for this weekend is that Salt Grinder is a B.C.-bred, so he can run up in Canada. Hopefully they will all run well this weekend, and we can find out who is best in the Mile."

Mix-up keeps Tessuto out of Governor's

The most intriguing nominee for the Governor's won't be able to run Sunday, because there was a mix-up with his foal certificate. Australian import Tessuto arrived in trainer Doris Harwood's barn Thursday night, but his papers hadn't arrived by the close of Sunday's entries on Friday morning.

"It turned out they were never sent from Australia, which irritates me, because we paid a lot of money to have them sent," said Harwood. "Without the foal certificate we can't have him tattooed, and without a tattoo he can't run."

Harwood wasn't irritated with any other aspect of Tessuto's arrival. She said Tessuto, a 6-year-old son of Breeders' Cup Mile winner Barathea who won 4 of 14 starts in Australia, shipped perfectly from Los Angeles, where he went through quarantine.

"He ate all his dinner last night, and we took him to the track [Friday] morning," she said. "When he saw the track his nostrils got as big as coffee cans and he went to work. He's a big, strong, beautiful horse, and he acts like a runner."

Tessuto was purchased privately by Ken Alhadeff from Australian trainer Tony Noonan, with jockey Chris Symons acting as intermediary. Symons, who is riding at Emerald this season after a successful career in his native Australia, rides most of Harwood's horses.

"It all sort of fell into our lap," said Harwood. "Kenny and I had kicked around the idea of importing a horse, then out of the blue Tony Noonan called Chris and said he had a good horse he had to sell, because he was bleeding. They can't use Lasix in Australia, and if they bleed too many times they get banned from racing."

As luck would have it, Symons had ridden Tessuto to a win in a handicap race last year, and that race was included in a tape that Symons gave to Harwood when he applied to ride for Noonan.

"We liked what we saw on the tape, we liked his breeding, we had Chris to vouch for him, and the price was reasonable," said Harwood. "We thought it was a deal worth doing."

Harwood and Alhadeff said they originally hoped to run Tessuto in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug. 21, but those plans are now on hold.

"He raced in June and he's dead fit, but it's probably not realistic to run him in the Mile after missing his prep race," said Harwood. "We might run him in the Owner's Handicap on the Mile Day card instead, then point for next year's Mile. He's lightly raced, and hopefully he'll have a long career with us."