07/30/2010 9:39AM

Noosa Beach, Assessment rematched at Emerald


AUBURN, Wash. – The $50,000 Mount Rainier Handicap isn’t a match race, not technically, anyway, though Assessment and Noosa Beach tower over the other five entrants in Emerald Downs’s final stakes prep for the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 22.

The centerpiece of Sunday’s Mile Preview Day, the nine-furlong Mount Rainier has been an accurate predictor of Longacres Mile success. Recent winners Flamethrowintexan (2006), The Great Face (2007), and Assessment (2009) went on the capture the Mile, and Wasserman took the 2008 Mile after finishing second in the Mount Rainier. All of which will make Sunday’s winner the presumptive local favorite to take down Emerald’s biggest prize three weeks later.

Assessment, a hard-charging 6-year-old trained by Howard Belvoir, is peaking at an opportune time. He sped to an impressive victory three weeks ago in the Governor’s Handicap, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.40. His effort earned a 94 Beyer Speed Figure. More important, he handed Noosa Beach his first loss this year after three dominating victories.

A victory Sunday would push Assessment’s career earnings over $400,000 and set him up for what is expected to be another highly competitive Mile. Noosa Beach, who won the mile Budweiser Handicap by 9 1/4 lengths in mid-June, is a certainty for the Mile. Gallant Son, third in the Wickerr Stakes on the grass at Del Mar Wednesday, is scheduled to arrive at Emerald Downs this Tuesday to begin final preparations. Hastings-based wunderkind Burj Dubai is expected to run, and if history repeats, a handful of California shippers will round out the field.

Though he finished a neck behind Assessment in the Governor’s, Noosa Beach figures to be the wagering favorite Sunday. He owns a commanding speed advantage, and while he has yet to win beyond a mile for trainer Doris Harwood, he was a close third in the nine-furlong British Columbia Derby at Hastings last September.

Emerald’s preeminent stakes riders, Ricky Frazier and Gallyn Mitchell, will handle the top contenders. Frazier, who rides Noosa Beach, has won a record 67 stakes at Emerald, two more than Mitchell, who has been aboard Assessment for his past 10 starts.

Others in the field are Senor Rojo, fourth in the Randall Plate at Hastings in his last start; Gallon; 2008 Longacres Mile winner Wasserman; Rooster City; and Dixie Meister. Rooster City won an allowance race in May, his only victory this year. The other four are a combined 0 for 14 in 2010.