09/30/2011 12:11PM

Hastings: Winning Machine has a bunch of tough foes in Premier's

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – With full fields, three stakes races including the $100,000 Premier’s and the Grade 3, $100,000 Ballerina, Russell Baze making an appearance, and a strong contingent of horses and humans from Emerald Downs, Sunday’s final card of the 2011 Hastings meet should be memorable.

The 1 3/8-mile Premier’s, which drew 12-horses, may have lost its Grade 3 designation this year, but it is the gem on the 11-race card.

Shipping in from Emerald Downs are Jebrica, Assessment, and Winning Machine, who won the Grade 3, $275,000 British Columbia for trainer Doris Harwood the only time he ran at Hastings in 2009.

Winning Machine, who is now trained by Frank Lucarelli, is coming off a strong win over Assessment in an allowance race at Emerald Sept 4. Lucarelli, the leading trainer at Emerald, is looking forward to seeing Winning Machine run at Hastings.

“I’ve been kind of encouraging his owners to run up there all year instead of chasing Noosa Beach,” he said. “He’s a little guy but he runs on, and we’ll find out if he can go that far.”

Leslie Mawing, the leading rider at the recently completed Emerald meet, rides Winning Machine.

Howard Belvoir, second to Lucarelli in the trainer standings at Emerald, will give Assessment another shot at the Premier’s. The 2009 Longacres Mile winner, Assessment was favored in the Premier’s last year, but after being in contention early he tired to finish fifth.

Jebrica, trained by Jim Penney, came very close to winning the B.C. Derby Sept. 11 but just couldn’t get past a very stubborn Northern Causeway. Jebrica won the Emerald Derby in his previous start.

Assistant trainer Kay Cooper thinks he’ll handle the added distance.

“He’s had two solid races going a mile and an eighth and he worked really well in preparation for this,” she said.

Baze, who rode Jebrica for the first time in the B.C. Derby, retains the mount.

Senor Rojo is undefeated in two starts at the 1 3/8-mile distance. He won the Premier’s last year and also the $75,000 Speed to Spare at Northlands Aug. 20.

Trainer Dino Condilenios sends out both Crew Leader and B.C. Cup Classic winner Almost Time. He gives Crew Leader the nod over his stablemate.

“Crew Leader just seems to be a little sharper than Almost Time right now,” said Condilenios.

Crew Leader is coming off a third-place finish in the Sir Winston Churchill Sept. 5 after finishing fourth in the Longacres Mile Aug. 21.

Commander had a wide trip while finishing fourth in the B.C. Derby and should save a lot more ground leaving from the inside post. The 10-year-old Trick of the North won the Premier’s in 2009.