08/12/2016 12:50PM

O B Harbor to get tested for class in Longacres Mile

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Reed & Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
O B Harbor's win in the Mt. Rainier Stakes was his third straight stakes victory.

O B Harbor has been sensational while beating up on the locals in his four races at Emerald Downs this year, but he will get a serious test for class in the Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Sunday.

Among the 11 horses entered in the 81st running of the race for 3-year-olds and up are proven graded winners Alert Bay and Cyrus Alexander. Also entered is Stryker Phd, who will try to win the most prestigious race in the Pacific Northwest for a record third straight time.

Post time for the Mile is 5:39 p.m. Pacific.

O B Harbor, trained by Chris Stenslie, will be the one they chase. He swept the three stakes for older horses at Emerald this year and was particularly dazzling when he won the $50,000 Governor’s in his second start. After dueling with Kaabraaj through a half-mile in 42.67 seconds, he drew off to win the 6 1/2-furlong dash by 4 1/2 lengths.

In his next start, he proved he could carry his substantial speed around two turns, winning the one-mile, $50,000 Budweiser.

O B Harbor was just an average 3-year-old last year, with a single win in a first-level allowance race. Stenslie and owner Jody Peetz have been rewarded for their patient handling of him.

“He’s always been a real nice horse, but he gets body sore, and we didn’t want to push him through it last year,” Stenslie said.

Stenslie was somewhat surprised when O B Harbor won the Budweiser. He proved it was no fluke when he came back to dominate the 1 1/16-mile Mount Rainier.

“He ran third going a mile and a sixteenth in the Coca-Cola last year, but I wasn’t completely sure he could carry his speed a middle distance,” she said. “He just runs his own race, and it looks like he can sprint for a long time.”

Bred in Oregon, O B Harbor drew post No. 4 with usual rider Jose Zunino riding.

The last Oregon-bred to win the Mile was Praise Jay in 1969. The horse who finished second, California, was partially owned by Peter Redekop, who is hoping to win the Mile for the first time with Alert Bay. Alert Bay and O B Harbor are the co-highweights at 123 pounds.

Trained by Blaine Wright, Alert Bay is the class of the field. He has won five graded stakes and is the top money earner in the race with more than $1.12 million. His most recent win came on turf in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile at Golden Gate Fields on April 30.

The versatile 5-year-old has won on dirt, turf, and Tapeta. Last year, he may have moved too soon into a rapid pace when he finished third in the Mile. In his most recent race, he finished fourth as the favorite in the $150,000 California Dreamin’ at Del Mar on July 24.

“He’s the best horse I’ve ever trained,” Wright said. “He trains easy, runs on any surface, and he has a knack for putting his nose in front at the wire. He is coming into the race in excellent shape. Not sure how the race will set up, but hopefully O B Harbor will react differently with graded winners chasing him home from the three-eighths pole.”

Jerry Hollendorfer has two solid chances with Point Piper and Cyrus Alexander. The Hall of Fame trainer won the race in 2014 with Adreamisborn.

Cyrus Alexander, who has decent tactical speed, won the Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 30 but then finished a disappointing seventh in the Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows on July 2.

“No excuses,” Hollendorfer said of the dull performance.

Point Piper should be heard from late. He is best at a mile, and his career-high 102 Beyer Speed Figure was earned when he was the runner-up to Dortmund at the distance in the $75,000 Big Bear at Santa Anita on Oct. 24. He will be making his first start since finishing fourth in the Grade 2 Californian at Santa Anita on May 22.

“We wanted to give him a little time to come back to himself,” Hollendorfer said. “We brought them both up because of their different running styles.”

Getting a little bit lost in the shuffle is Stryker Phd, a two-time winner of this race for trainer Larry Ross. He is coming off a dull fourth-place finish in the Mount Rainier in just his second start this year.

Ross was optimistic that Stryker Phd would show up with his best stuff Sunday.

“He really couldn’t be doing any better,” Ross said. “He didn’t like the track in his last race, so we are just going to throw it out.”

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