04/20/2011 12:35PM

Hastings: Noosa Beach set for another season

Emerald Downs
Noosa Beach, with Ricky Frazier riding, wins the Longacres Mile.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Noosa Beach will make his 2011 debut when he returns to Hastings $50,000 George Royal Stakes on Friday.

Trained by Doris Harwood, Noosa Beach was the horse of the year in Washington last year, and he has been almost unbeatable since he finished third in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby in 2009. Since then he has reeled off 6 wins from 7 starts at Emerald Downs, his only loss coming by a neck to Assessment in the Mount Rainier. His most important win was in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile over Jersey Town, who went on to win the Grade 1 Cigar Mile at Aqueduct last November.

A decent 3-year-old with a couple of stakes wins from five starts, Noosa Beach turned into a monster at 4. According to Harwood, he’s a bigger and stronger horse this year.

“He looks awesome,” she said from Emerald Downs. “He has put on another 50 pounds, and it is all muscle.”

Noosa Beach wasn’t the star in Harwood’s barn when he finished third in the B.C. Derby. The horse on the pedestal was Winning Machine, who won both the Emerald and B.C. Derby. Winning Machine hasn’t won a race since he beat Jersey Town in the B.C. Derby. He was moved to Frank Lucarelli’s barn after he finished last in the Budweiser at Emerald Downs last June. Noosa Beach won the race by over nine lengths.

Harwood wasn’t surprised that Noosa Beach improved as a 4-year-old and that Winning Machine went in a different direction.

“Noosa Beach was never perfect at 3,” she said. “He had a nagging injury that bugged him all year. Call it a wound. There weren’t any problems with a joint or anything like that, but it clearly bothered him. Last year he was 100 percent sound. Like a lot of horses, Winning Machine just had a hard time making the transition as a 4-year-old.”

Noosa Beach was bred by Harwood and her husband, Jeff. He is from the first crop of Harbor the Gold, a son of Mr. Prospector who won two races for and earned $68,500. Noosa Beach’s dam, Julie Rose, was unraced. All four of her previous foals won, but none was a star. The top earner in the family was War Alert, who won four races and banked $36,686. Harwood felt confident she wouldn’t lose Noosa Beach when she ran him in a $12,500 maiden claiming race in his first start as a 2-year-old. She was also pretty sure he was going to win. He did, by an easy 4 1/2 lengths.

“I was stealing, but I was pretty sure I could get away with it,” she said. “I knew he could run a bit, but I didn’t think anyone was going to be too excited about his breeding. I really believe in building up a young horse’s confidence by finding the easiest spot possible for them. Noosa Beach is a perfect example of that. He wasn’t the best horse around, but he gained confidence, and it helped him develop into a pretty nice horse.”

Noosa Beach was slated to make his first start at Emerald Downs last weekend, but when an allowance race failed to fill, Harwood didn’t hesitate to bring him across the border.

“He handled the track at Hastings well when he ran in the derby, and he didn’t mind the ship up,” said Harwood. “It fits perfectly into his schedule. I’m just hoping for a good race to get him started. There are other races at Hastings that also look attractive, so you’ll probably see us again.”

Harwood would be thrilled if Noosa Beach were able to defend his title in the Longacres Mile. She has no illusions about how difficult the task is, however.

“I think it would be great if he was just able to run in the Mile again,” said Harwood. “I’m a realist. They give their lives every time they run, and just getting back to the Mile would be a great accomplishment. To win it would be something very special.”

Noosa Beach will be without the services of his usual rider, Ricky Frazier. Frazier has not ridden since he sustained a concussion at Fresno last October. Harwood said Frazier had a lot to do with the success Noosa Beach had last year. Gallyn Mitchell picks up the mount.

“Ricky got along with him perfectly,” said Harwood. “Noosa Beach got stepped on coming out of the gate in the Mile, and Ricky’s patience really paid off.”

Harwood said she named Noosa Beach after a resort town in Australia.

“We had a great time when we took a trip there,” she said. “When we got back it was my year to name the yearlings,” said Harwood. “Now, when we’re naming yearlings we pull out the map of Australia.”