09/09/2008 12:00AM

McCanna cruising to another title


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Tim McCanna whizzed by his own record of 55 wins at a single Emerald Downs meeting about two weeks ago, tying the mark with Especially Capable and breaking it with News Alert on Aug. 30. That in itself was not shocking, since McCanna has dominated the trainer standings at Emerald since the track's second season in 1997. With 59 wins to second-leading trainer Frank Lucarelli's 37 and only 12 days of racing remaining at the meet, his eighth Emerald training title is assured.

But why this year for a new record? The average field size at Emerald is up slightly, from 7.62 horses per race to 7.82, which should make races harder to win. And McCanna's best horses coming into this year's stand, Poker Brad and No Constraints, failed to pan out. Poker Brad didn't make it back to the races, and No Constraints was sidelined after a couple of subpar efforts.

So why is the trainer having his best season ever?

"I think one big factor is that claiming is down so much this season," McCanna said. "I lost 120 horses via claim over the past four seasons, so that's an average of 30 a year. This year, I've lost somewhere between 15 and 20."

McCanna doesn't claim many horses himself. He claimed eight in 2006, six in 2007, and five this year. The fact that he has lost significantly fewer horses this year means that he is left with more horses than usual to run in the meet's final weeks.

"I'm really pretty well stocked right now," he said. "I'll be disappointed if I don't win another 10 races before the meeting is over."

If McCanna can approach 70 wins at this meet, which isn't likely to be expanded in the foreseeable future, the record figures to stand for a very long time. McCanna doesn't believe he will break it.

"This is my last hurrah," he said. "I'm going to try to cut back on my operation after this year. I know I've said that before and it hasn't happened, but the economics of the business make it necessary now, and my kids are getting to the age where I need to be home more."

McCanna is already at his home in Yakima, Wash., at least a couple of days a week, which is why he is always at pains to share credit for his accomplishments with his help.

"In my situation, I just couldn't do it without good help," he said. "Don Gonsalves has been my barn foreman forever and he provides stability. This is the second year that Robert Sodergren has been my assistant trainer, and he has done a super job for me. My grooms and exercise riders have been great, and I have been able to get good jockeys to ride my horses. A lot of things have to come together to have success in this business, and they have come together especially well this season."

Race for jockey title remains tight

While the race for leading trainer is a runaway, the jockey race figures to go down to the wire. Kevin Radke had a seven-win cushion over Seth Martinez and an eight-win advantage over defending riding champ Ricky Frazier going into last week's racing, but Radke broke three ribs in a spill Thursday and is lost for the season. By the end of racing Sunday, Martinez had tied Radke for leading rider with 100 wins, and Frazier was just two behind with 98.

Martinez, who was the leading rider at the last Turf Paradise meeting, has had a remarkable run at Emerald since arriving here six weeks after the meet started on April 18. Martinez, a 29-year-old native of New Mexico, has had 32 multiple win days and has ridden three winners on a single card 10 times. He won five races July 13 and equaled the Emerald record of six riding wins on July 27. His win rate of 20.2 percent is second only to Gallyn Mitchell, who is winning with 21.3 percent of his mounts.

$120,000 show wager at Emerald

The biggest wager ever placed on a horse at Emerald Downs came down on Maltese Tiger in Saturday's first race, a modest $10,000 maiden claiming event with six horses going six furlongs. A wager of $120,000 to show was placed on Maltese Tiger through TVG. The total show pool was $127,625, and all but $1,726 was bet on Maltese Tiger.

Maltese Tiger, who went off as the 1-5 favorite, won easily and paid $2.10 to show, creating a minus pool of $26,348.45.

Strong nominations for Sunday card

Nominations were plentiful for the seven stakes to be run on Sunday's Washington Cup program, as 79 horses were made eligible.

Knights Choice winner Ladyledue tops a list of 14 juvenile fillies nominated to the six-furlong Diane Kem Stakes, while Siberian Cocktail and Silver Lake Max head a roster of 16 juvenile colts and geldings named for the six-furlong Captain Condo Stakes.

Double stakes winner Enumclaw Girl heads a list of 10 nominees for the one-mile John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and Pepsi Cola Handicap winner Margo's Gift tops 11 3-year-old colts and geldings named for the one-mile Trooper Seven Stakes.

King County Handicap winner Firetrail is among nine fillies and mares nominated for the 1 1/16-mile Belle Roberts Handicap, and Longacres Mile winner Wasserman was nominated for both the six-furlong Chinook Pass Sprint, which drew 10 nominations, and the 1 1/16-mile Muckleshoot Tribal Classic, which has nine nominees.