06/15/2007 12:00AM

Longacres Mile boosted to $400K


The purse for this year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19 was increased from $250,000 to $300,000 before this meeting began. This week, owing to a sponsorship agreement with Television Games Network, the Mile purse is being boosted again to $400,000.

The $400,000 purse for the Longacres Mile presented by TVG is the largest ever offered in the Northwest, and it is designed to elevate the status of the Mile to a major prep for the newly created $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 26.

"We hope to attract some of the best milers in the country to Emerald Downs," said Susie Sourwine, the track's vice president of marketing. "Then we hope one of our own local horses beats them all and goes on to win the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile."

Local horses have more than held their own against some classy invaders in the past. Of the 11 runnings of the Mile at Emerald Downs, five have been won by horses who were stabled on the grounds. The locally based Mile winners were Kid Katabatic in 1997, Edneator in 2000, Sabertooth in 2002, No Giveaway in 2005, and Flamethrowintexan last year.

Starbird Road injured

Unfortunately, the name of the superior sprinter Starbird Road will not be added to the list of local Mile winners this year. The 6-year-old Starbird Road was slated to run in Sunday's Budweiser Emerald Handicap, but an injury has cut short his 2007 campaign.

"He has a hole high in his suspensory ligament, so he is done for the year," said trainer Sharon Ross. "It apparently happened last Saturday, when we gave him a slow five-furlong workout. He seemed to come out of that workout fine. He looked good on Sunday, he walked fine on Monday, and he galloped fine on Tuesday. After the gallop I felt a little heat just below his knee on his right front, and an ultrasound revealed the tear."

Ross said Starbird Road will be treated with stem cell therapy, which involves pulling bone marrow from his hip, growing stem cells from that bone marrow, and injecting the stem cells into the injured area to promote healing without developing the scar tissue that would normally limit the elasticity of the affected ligament or tendon.

Knight's Secret, whom Ross trains for Leonard Strandley Jr., underwent an earlier version of stem cell therapy for a similar injury late in 2005. Knight's Secret, who is now 5, returned on June 3 to defeat $25,000 optional claiming company at 6 1/2 furlongs in a scintillating 1:14.20.

"We were really pleased with the results we got from stem cell therapy on Knight's Secret," said Ross. "The vets couldn't believe the amount of healing that had occurred after 60 days. The ultrasound looked entirely normal, but it is important to realize that they still need time. Knight's Secret got even more time than he really needed, but that was because Leonard didn't want to run him in California. We had to wait for the next Emerald Downs meet to begin."

Ross said she has every expectation that Starbird Road can make a full recovery, just as Knight's Secret has apparently done.

"I've had quite a few high suspensory injuries over the years, and this treatment is the best I have seen for bringing horses back to where they were before," she said. "Starbird Road is a good patient, and we will give him plenty of time. Of course I am disappointed to lose him now, but it is important for fans to know that these injuries happen and they don't have to mean that the horse is finished. Starbird Road will be back."

Poker Brad, Mr. Makah make comebacks

Poker Brad and Mr. Makah will give testimony in Sunday's Budweiser Emerald Handicap that horses can and do come back from injuries.

Trainer Tim McCanna gave the 9-year-old Poker Brad all of last year off to recover from the accumulated wear and tear of six campaigns and 39 races, and he feels the earner of $425,354 has been reinvigorated.

"He has been training as well as ever," said McCanna. "I would have liked to find a mile allowance race for him before now, but he is more than ready to run. I'm excited to get him started again."

Mr. Makah, who won both the Budweiser Emerald and the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic here in 2005, will be returning 13 months after suffering a suspensory injury. Trainer and part-owner Bonnie Jenne said the 7-year-old Mr. Makah was treated with the more traditional shock therapy and given eight months off.

"We started him back at Pegasus training center in mid-January," she said. "He swam for 45 days before we started jogging him, and he really hasn't missed a beat. I think it might be expecting too much for him to win first time back, but we're hoping for a good, strong effort to get him on his way."

McCready, longtime starter, dies at age 83

The local backstretch community was saddened to learn that Art McCready, the longtime starter at Longacres, passed away after a lengthy illness on Wednesday afternoon at the age of 83. McCready retired after Longacres closed in 1992, but he was a frequent visitor at Emerald Downs until this season. Funeral arrangements are pending.