08/18/2008 11:00PM

Price a little steep for a Wasserman BC run


AUBURN, Wash. - Breeder, trainer, and owner Howard Belvoir was elated after Wasserman won Sunday's Grade 3 Longacres Mile, as well he should have been. It was the realization of a dream of more than 40 years' duration. It was also worth $137,500, plus Washington-bred breeder's and owner's bonuses. And, because the Mile carried Win and You're In status for the first time this year, Wasserman's desperate neck victory over True Metropolitan guaranteed him a spot in the gate for this year's $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

Belvoir was elated, but he didn't lose his head. Wasserman, a 6-year-old son of Cahill Road, is not eligible for the Breeders' Cup, though his sire is. Consequently, he would have to be supplemented to the Dirt Mile at a cost of $90,000, according to Breeders' Cup officials. When weighing the pros and cons of that proposition, Belvoir was as rational as a judge.

"If he were eligible, I might have to consider running him in that race," he said. "But that's a lot of money to pay to run in a race that, realistically, you're going to be 20-1 or more. It really doesn't make much sense."

Belvoir said it is far more likely that Wasserman will run on the Sept. 14 Washington Cup Day program, either in the $50,000 Chinook Pass Sprint at six furlongs or the $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at 1 1/16 miles. After that, he will be turned out for the winter.

Belvoir has turned Wasserman out after his Emerald Downs campaign in each of the last two years, and the trainer credited that practice for much of the success that Wasserman has enjoyed.

"He has gotten better each year he has raced, and I think that is because of the time off," he said. "He has gotten stronger, and it is easier to keep weight on him. He has also stayed sound, and that is his strong suit. He is one of the soundest horses I have ever had, and that is why he is so consistent."

Another key to Wasserman's success, according to Belvoir, is his will to win.

"He's like a poor man going to work every morning," he said. "He knows he has to show up. This horse shows up every time. He always tries hard. You've got to appreciate a horse like that."

Judging from the thunderous applause that greeted Wasserman in the winner's circle on Sunday - an ovation rivaling any given to Northwest racing legends Turbulator, Trooper Seven, and Captain Condo in days of old - Emerald Downs fan do.

There's a first time for everything

There were a number of firsts associated with Sunday's 73rd Longacres Mile, the most noteworthy of which was Jennifer Whitaker becoming the first female rider to win the Northwest's most prestigious race. Whitaker has ridden Wasserman in 28 of his 38 starts and in all eight of his victories. She has learned how to time the stretch-runner's big move to a fraction of a second. His four wins this year were by margins of a half-length, a head, a nose, and a neck.

The win also pushed Wasserman to first place in Emerald Downs earnings with $396,234, and, incredibly, it was Wasserman's first win around two turns in 19 career attempts.

Another first was narrowly averted, as it looked for a time on Sunday morning as though the Mile, indeed the whole card, would have to be canceled owing to a lack of electrical power. A substation in Olympia went out at about 3:45 a.m., and power was lost to a large but irregular swath of western Washington, including Emerald Downs. There was talk of a "drop-dead" time of 1 p.m. for the day's racing, which was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., but power was mercifully restored shortly before 11 a.m.

Hollendorfer, Baze strike yet again

Sunday's $100,000 Emerald Distaff for older fillies and mares at nine furlongs went to jockey Russell Baze and trainer Jerry Hollendorfer for the third time in the last four years. The "Dynamic Duo," who had won the race with Secret Corsage in 2005 and with Gemstone Rush last year, scored on Sunday with Lemon Kiss.

Sent off as the favorite in a field of nine, Lemon Kiss, a 4-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid who races for Dr. Mark DeDomenico and William DeBurgh, took the lead on the backstretch and held off a stretch-long challenge from Shampoo to win by half a length in 1:49. It was the first stakes win for Lemon Kiss, who has won 4 of 11 career starts.

"We always thought she was a nice filly, and she is just now starting to live up to her promise," said Baze. "If she can go on from here, we'll have some fun with her."

Elusive Horizon has Oaks to herself

Saturday's $100,000 Washington Oaks became a lopsided affair with the late scratch of Enumclaw Girl, who was expected to challenge the heavily favored Elusive Horizon for the lead. With no pace pressure, Elusive Horizon controlled the fractions and never looked like losing en route to a 1 3/4-length victory over the Hollendorfer-trained Christmas Ship in 1:49.60 for 1 1/8 miles. It was the third easy win in a row for Elusive Horizon, who will not race at Emerald again this year.

"I'm planning to take her to Santa Anita, along with Margo's Gift, Shampoo, and maybe Super Dixie," said trainer Doris Harwood. "I'll probably send them down after the yearling sale in early September, then I'll split my time between here and there for the rest of the meet."

The four horses Harwood named have helped her to six stakes wins this year at Emerald. Last year she set a track standard with 12 stakes wins. For her career, she has 27 stakes wins at Emerald, the fourth most of any trainer.