08/11/2010 12:46PM

Slew the Man ships in for Emerald Derby

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AUBURN, Wash. – At first blush, Sunday’s Emerald Derby looks like a two-horse race between Newfound Man and Posse Power, who finished heads apart in the Seattle Slew Handicap three weeks ago. But a closer reading points to California shipper Slew the Man as a legitimate contender.

Slew the Man has been to Emerald Downs before; bred locally by Ron and Nina Hagen, he sold for $47,000 at the 2008 Washington summer yearling sale in the pavilion adjacent to the racetrack. But Slew the Man has raced exclusively in California for owners Alan Klein and Phil Lebherz, winning 3 of 14 starts. In his last start before shipping north, Slew the Man finished third against older horses after pressing a fast pace in the 1 1/16-mile Alamedan Stakes at Pleasanton on July 4.

“The horse always had talent,” trainer Jeff Bonde said this week. “He was a bit spotty early on, but then we gelded him and he’s been a professional racehorse ever since. I spotted him poorly in that last race, running him against older horses. There wasn’t another race for him, we didn’t want to take him to Southern California or force him onto the grass, so I ran him in my hometown. That was a tough field, and my horse ran a very courageous race.”

Slew the Man is from the final crop sired by Slewdledo, who died in 2006. From the Fit to Fight mare Go for Jackie, Slew the Man is a half-brother to Indian Weaver, who won two stakes at Emerald and finished fifth in the 2005 Emerald Derby. Slew the Man has abundant early speed, which he used to good effect when dominating older horses in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in early June. That effort earned an 89 Beyer Speed Figure, a couple of lengths faster than anything yet recorded by Newfound Man or Posse Power.

Lebherz, a Bay Area businessman, has a special affinity for the Seattle area, Bonde said. And why not? Lebherz won two Emerald stakes in 2005 with Cinderella Liberty, and in addition to getting Slew the Man at the 2008 yearling sale, he and Klein won the bidding for Smiling Tiger. Now one of the top sprinters in North America, Smiling Tiger captured the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Handicap at Del Mar earlier this month, and Bonde said the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint in November is a distinct possibility.

Slew the Man isn’t of that caliber, but he should be good enough to make an impact against fellow 3-year-olds at Emerald. He has worked twice since arriving a couple of weeks ago and is being cared for by Mike Chambers, Emerald’s all-time leading trainer by winning percentage.

“I’ve got a lot of horses at Del Mar and I was getting spread a little thin, so I sent the horse up to Mike,” Bonde said. “We’re fully confident he’ll do a great job with him.”

Assessment targets Mile defense

Trainer Howard Belvoir said Assessment, winner of the 2009 Longacres Mile and Emerald’s 2009 horse of the meeting, checked out fine following a disappointing performance Aug. 1 in the nine-furlong Mount Rainier Handicap. Assessment finished sixth, 8 1/2 lengths behind Noosa Beach, three weeks after beating Noosa Beach by a neck in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap.

Barring a late setback, Assessment will try to defend his title in the $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 22. Belvoir also hopes to sneak 2008 Mile winner Wasserman into the field, though Wasserman has won just once in 13 starts over the past two seasons.

“He’s nominated, but he may not get in,” Belvoir said. “You could say he doesn’t deserve to be in there based on what he’s done this year, but I’d like to run him. You never know what might happen once you get in.”

◗ Marvin’s Magic, expected to be one of the favorites last Sunday in the Premio Esmeralda Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings, suffered a knee injury in training and has been turned out for the rest of the year, trainer Frank Lucarelli said. Marvin’s Magic won a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race in his first start June 6 and then finished last of eight in the $100,000 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Hollywood Park on July 5.

◗ Pedro Terrero, Emerald Downs’s leading apprentice, will sit out Saturday and Sunday while serving a two-day suspension for causing interference aboard Roxy Skylar in the fourth race Aug. 1. Terrero, who began the meeting on a 23-for-72 tear, has cooled considerably in recent weeks, winning with 10 of 99 mounts since July 1.

◗ Emerald’s board of stewards suspended trainer Carlos Moreno indefinitely last Saturday for failing to make Washington Department of Labor and Industries payments to cover employee insurance. Moreno, who won two stakes with Kruger Park last summer, is winless at the meeting and hasn’t started a horse since July 17.