07/28/2006 12:00AM

Hard to tell which Mile prep is best

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AUBURN, Wash. - Both of the preps for the Grade 3 Longacres Mile that will be run Sunday at Emerald Downs have produced their share of Mile winners.

The Governor's Handicap, which will be run at 6 1/2 furlongs for a purse of $40,000, produced the first and the most recent winners of the Mile. Coldwater won the Governor's and the Mile in 1935, and No Giveaway swept the two races last year. In the interim, Quality Quest (1955), Sparrow Castle (1961), Praise Jay (1969), Silver Mallet (1973), Trooper Seven (1980 and 1981), Travelling Victor (1984), Snipledo (1990), Bolulight (1992), and Want a Winner (1994) have all used a win in the Governor's as a springboard to Mile success. Several others contested but did not win the Governor's before winning the Mile.

The Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup, which will be run for a purse of $100,000 at 1 1/8 miles, is a much younger race, having been inaugurated with the onset of racing at Emerald in 1996. In fact, the race was for 3-year-old fillies that year, so it has been a Mile prep only since 1997. Nonetheless, it has already produced Mile winners Kid Katabatic, who won the Mt. Rainier in 1999; Edneator, who ran fifth in 2000; and Sabertooth, who ran second in 2002.

Both Edneator and Sabertooth were trained by Jim Penney, who has saddled a record four Longacres Mile winners. His other two, Silver Mallet and Theologist (1977), both prepped for their Mile wins in the Governor's Handicap. If anybody knows whether the Governor's or the Mt. Rainier serves as a better prep for the Mile, it's Penney. The trainer couldn't provide a definitive answer, however.

"I really think it depends upon the individual horse, and on that horse's situation at the time," he said. "With Sabertooth, for example, he was a horse with all the speed in the world, but we felt we had to work on his stamina if he was going to win the Mile. We ran him in the longer race. Theologist was just the opposite. He was a natural route horse, and we needed to sharpen his speed in a sprint."

Penney's best hope for this year's Mile is Flamethrowintexan, who is one of six horses who was nominated for both the Governor's and the Mt. Rainier. The trainer has opted to prep Flamethrowintexan in the Mt. Rainier, but he said either race would have worked to get him ready for the Longacres Mile Aug. 20.

"Tex would be favored for either race, because he has both speed and stamina," said Penney. "If that is the case, doesn't it make more sense to run for $100,000 rather than $40,000?"

Flamethrowintexan has run twice at the meeting, finishing second in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap on May 29 and third in the one-mile Emerald Handicap on June 18. Penney held him out of the 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap on July 3, but that was a calculated decision.

"We just felt it wasn't in the best interest of the horse to run him in all three races," he said. "He runs well fresh, and we felt we could get him fit enough off works to run 1 1/8 miles. He is a very willing work horse, sometimes too willing, and I'm not really worried about his fitness. He is doing very well now, and I think he'll run well."

Late maneuvering by trainers

The trainers of the other five horses who were cross-entered in both of Sunday's Mile preps have their own reasons for running their runners in one race rather than the other. Both Vince Gibson, who will saddle R. Associate, and Mark Rheinford, who will send out Bull Ranch, said their horses are simply better at the nine-furlong distance of the Mt. Rainier.

Wasserman will also go in the Mt. Rainier, but not necessarily because he prefers the longer distance.

"I think he would be a longshot to win either race, but I kind of have to run him in one of them or else not run him at all," said Wasserman's trainer, Howard Belvoir. "I'm going in the Mt. Rainier because it looks like there is a lot of speed in that race. I'm hoping some of the speed horses tire so we can pick up the pieces."

Trainer Bonnie Jenne, who will saddle Best Game in Town for the Governor's, said her horse took the decision out of her hands.

"When I worked him five furlongs, he went so poorly that I didn't think he would be fit enough to run 1 1/8 miles," she said. "I came back and blew him out three furlongs on Wednesday, and he went in 35 seconds flat. He seems sharp enough to sprint, so that's what we'll do."

Trainer Jimmy Orr said he is running Norm's Nephew in the Governor's in an attempt to have him at his best for the Mile.

"I'm just afraid it would take too much out of him to run him 1 1/8 miles," he said. "We want to run him back in the Mile, which is just three weeks later, and 1 1/8 miles can be hard on a horse. I think the Governor's will set him up better for the Mile."