09/10/2007 11:00PM

The Great Face is big day's standout

EmailAUBURN, Wash. - Sixty-nine horses have been nominated to contest the seven stakes races on Sunday's fifth annual Washington Cup Day card, but most of the attention and a big chunk of the wagering will be focused on The Great Face in the $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at 1 1/16 miles.

That is understandable, since The Great Face is coming off back-to-back front-running wins in the $70,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap at 1 1/8 miles and the Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile. The Great Face, a 5-year-old son of Cahill Road from the barn of trainer Tom Wenzel, has already established a single-season Emerald earnings record of $292,875, and with the move into statebred competition he will be an overwhelming favorite to add to that total on Sunday. Wenzel is taking nothing for granted, however.

"I think this is a very dangerous race for him," said the trainer. "We've all seen horses come off huge races in the Breeders' Cup, for example, and then get beat in seemingly softer spots. There is always a chance of a regression in that situation, and it doesn't help that everybody else is targeting us as the horse to beat."

That wasn't the case in either of The Great Face's last two outings, when he was more or less flying under the radar. The Great Face was best known as a sprinter before the Mt. Rainier, and nobody was eager to sacrifice their horse by hooking him early. Then in the Mile there appeared to be at least three confirmed front-runners, but the other two broke slowly. As a result, The Great Face was left alone on the lead after a half-mile in 46 and change in both races. Wenzel doesn't expect that to happen for a third time in the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic.

"I'm sure he'll have to go faster to get to the front this time," he said. "I think he is a good horse, though, and I'm confident that he can run faster early and keep going. They'll make him work, though. I'm not looking at this as an easy race."

Regardless of the outcome, Wenzel said the Muckleshoot Classic will probably be The Great Face's last start of the year.

"We've talked about running him in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, but we're leaning against it," he said. "His numbers don't really stack up that well against the horses he would be likely to meet in that race, and we don't want to ship him all the way across the country to be 50-1. We want to be realistic. He is a Washington-bred and he should have another big year at this meeting next year, so it makes sense to save him."

Wenzel said the decision to turn out The Great Face after the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic isn't set in concrete, however.

"If he should happen to run out of his mind on Sunday and to come out of it looking for more to do, we might have to reconsider," he said. "Everything is day to day in this business."

Decisions, decisions for Belvoir

Trainer Howard Belvoir has some decisions to make before entry time for the Washington Cup Day card on Friday. One is whether to enter Emerald Derby hero Mulcahy in the $45,000 Trooper Seven Stakes at a mile, or to save him for the $250,000 B.C. Derby on Sept. 23, going 1 1/8 miles around Hastings's five-furlong oval.

"The money is better in Vancouver, and so is the timing and the distance," Belvoir said. "All the same, I'm inclined to keep him here. I don't like bringing him back from the Emerald Derby in 13 days, but I want to support the local program. I'm also reluctant to run him on a five-eighths-mile track, especially with a new rider."

Belvoir said Mulcahy's regular rider, Jennifer Whitaker, has never ridden on a five-eighths-mile track and doesn't feel she could do the horse justice at Hastings.

Belvoir's other decision concerns Wasserman, who was cross-nominated in the $45,000 Chinook Pass Sprint at six furlongs and the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic. In his last two starts, the 5-year-old Wasserman won the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap and ran third to The Great Face in the Longacres Mile.

"I'd just as soon sprint him, but I've got Immigration for the Chinook Pass, and I hate to run those two horses against each other," said Belvoir. "I'll probably run Wasserman in the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic. He'll have to hook into The Great Face again, but The Great Face didn't beat him that far in the Mile, and our horse lost a lot of ground in that race. With a better trip and a faster pace to target, I think Wasserman could be very tough."

Smarty Deb no lock for Cup start

One local horse who could very well wind up at Monmouth Park for the Breeders' Cup on Oct. 27 is Smarty Deb, who is undefeated after three extremely impressive outings. Smarty Deb, a daughter of Smart Strike who races for Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms, must clear two hurdles to earn her ticket east, however.

"First she'll need to beat the boys in the Gottstein Futurity, and she'll have to do it impressively," said trainer Doris Harwood. "Then she'll need to get into the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. Half of the field is determined by who has the most graded stakes earnings, and she won't have any. The other half is chosen by a committee, and we'll just have to hope they choose her. If she is undefeated after four starts, with three stakes wins and two wins over the boys, they might have a hard time leaving her out."

Sale catalogs ready

Catalogs are available for the Oregon Thoroughbred Breeders Association's annual mixed sale, to be held Oct. 6 at Oakhurst Farm in Newberg, Ore. Sixty-two hips have been cataloged: four horses of racing age, 26 yearlings, 13 weanlings, and 19 broodmares.