06/08/2009 11:00PM

Record run puts Atta Boy Roy in mix for Mile


AUBURN, Wash. - Fast times have been synonymous with Northwest racing for decades, so eyebrows were arched only slightly Saturday after Atta Boy Roy blazed six furlongs in 1:07.40. More important than tying the track record or making headlines, Atta Boy Roy stamped himself as a legitimate contender for the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile, Emerald Downs's richest race.

The list of Mile contenders is growing by the week. In addition to Kruger Park, a two-time stakes winner at the current meeting, and defending Mile champion Wasserman, locally based horses such as Assessment, Gallon, Cafe Tortoni, and Nationhood are being aimed toward the Aug. 16 race. The top handicap horses from Vancouver's Hastings racecourse are sure to join the discussion, and with a graded stakes victory on the line, there's always a California shipper or two in the field. Now comes Atta Boy Roy, a 4-year-old Washington-bred colt who had never raced at Emerald before Saturday.

It was an auspicious debut, and then some. Favored at 8-5 in a $50,000 optional claimer, Atta Boy Roy tracked pacesetter Fear No Evil down the backstretch, surged to the front around the turn, and powered through the stretch to win by 10 1/2 lengths. After a 44-second half-mile, he needed only 23.40 seconds to complete the final quarter. It was his first start since January.

Atta Boy Roy earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest at Emerald Downs since 2005.

"He was dragging me all the way around there," jockey Joe Crispin said. "When I asked him turning for home, it was amazing. I had a ton of horse under me."

It was the 12th start for Atta Boy Roy, whose itinerary included stops in Arizona, Minnesota, and Iowa before his first race in the Northwest. Owned by Roy and Ellie Schaefer of Port Orchard, Wash., and trained by Valerie Lund, Atta Boy Roy was unraced at 2 and patiently handled at 3. Foot problems have been an ongoing concern; he suffered a quarter crack before his most recent start, when he was a distant sixth in a stakes race at Turf Paradise, and then was turned out for a couple of months.

Lund brought him to Emerald Downs in early May and put Crispin up for two of his workouts. Like those works, Saturday's race was intended to be a tune-up of sorts.

"He made us very proud today," Lund said. "But I should tell you, we came here for the Mile."

Atta Boy Roy has the pedigree to win the big one. By Tribunal out of the Synastry mare Irish Toast, he's a half-brother to The Great Face, who won the Mile in 2007. But whether Atta Boy Roy makes it to the Mile or not, the Schaefers already have received a $72,300 return on their $4,500 investment at the 2006 Washington summer yearling sale. They were prepared to pay as much as $35,000 for the colt - then named Irish Pride - but competing bidders were turned off by his actions in the sales ring.

"They put a lip chain on him, and he didn't present himself very well," Schaefer said. "We were pleased to get him."

Lund said: "After we got him, I slapped Roy on the shoulder and said, 'Atta Boy Roy!' That's how we named him."

Looking for a rider who fit the horse for his Emerald debut, Lund turned to Crispin - a fortuitous turn for a vagabond jockey who rode at nine different tracks in 2008 and spent part of the summer riding Quarter Horses at Ruidoso Downs in hopes of landing a ride in the $2omillion All American Futurity. Crispin, 49, intended to try the California fair circuit this summer, but a phone call from Emerald-based trainer Frank Lucarelli convinced him otherwise. Lucarelli had some horses for Crispin to ride, quick ones like the 2-year-old filly Feeling Fancy, who ran 4 1/2 furlongs in 51 seconds in her first start Saturday.

Crispin also secured the mount on the speedy 5-year-old mare Clair Annette for trainer Connie Bouslaugh. They teamed to win the Hastings Park Handicap in 1:08.60 in mid-May, Crispin's first stakes victory at Emerald Downs. He has been on some fast ones, but Atta Boy Roy takes the cake.

"You take the quarter crack away from him," Crispin said, "and maybe he's got the world record right now."

Baze drops by for a quick visit

A brief Northwest homecoming for Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze went sideways Sunday when he finished second on 3-10 betting favorite High Resolve in the Washington State Legislators Stakes. However, Baze got a chance to catch up with some friends and acquaintances.

"I know a lot of people up here," he quipped, "but I don't recognize some of them anymore."

Baze rode his first winner at Yakima Meadows in 1974 and competed at Longacres in the mid-1970s before settling in Northern California. He has made occasional trips to Emerald, winning consecutive Longacres Miles with Sky Jack in 2003 and Adreamisborn in 2004.

He turned 50 last August. Yet even with a North American-record 10,551 victories in the bag, he said he has no plans to retire.

"I'm leading the nation again right now, so things are going really well," he said. "Why would anybody quit this?"