08/22/2014 1:11PM

Stryker Phd looms over Longacres Mile

Reed Palmer/Emerald Downs
Coming off a win in the Mt. Rainer Handicap, Stryker Phd will be the favorite Sunday in the Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

AUBURN, Wash. – The central question facing handicappers in Sunday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Longacres Mile is this: How much do you believe in Stryker Phd? The local hero and likely favorite has been a tower of late-running power at Emerald Downs the past 13 months, posting flashy Beyer Speed Figures while swimming upstream against Emerald’s prevailing speed bias.

Trainer Larry Ross and jockey Leslie Mawing have been effusive in their praise of Stryker Phd, a 5-year-old Bertrando gelding who joined the Ross barn last winter in a trainer shuffle. He has continued to train smartly since his victory July 20 in the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap, and there’s an inkling in the Stryker Phd camp that he’s a better horse than he was a year ago.


The Mt. Rainier Handicap, Stryker Phd’s latest conquest, has been a key indicator of success in the Longacres Mile. The recent winners Flamethrowintexan, The Great Face, Assessment, Noosa Beach, and Herbie D all captured the Mt. Rainier before taking the Mile. The top three finishers in the 2013 Mt. Rainier finished first, second, and fourth in the Longacres Mile four weeks later.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 9 Stryker Phd. Trainer Larry Ross is 9 for 82 with a $0.99 ROI over the past five years at Emerald with last-out winners.Click for more details. Mike Hogan

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Stryker Phd stands tall in the Beyer department with speed figures of 96, 97, 96, 97, and 91 in his past five Emerald Downs starts. It has required a Beyer approaching triple digits to win the Longacres Mile in recent years – Herbie D earned a 100 in 2013 – and judged solely through the prism of speed figures, Stryker Phd is one of the few proven commodities in Sunday’s 12-horse field.

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That’s a lot of positive reinforcement for those favoring Stryker Phd, and the pace scenario could work in his favor as well. Scat Daddybaby, who set a crackling and ultimately reckless pace in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race in his last start, likely will lead the way into the first turn, with Disruption, a rapidly improving 4-year-old, in close pursuit. They will be followed by a second wave that could include Prohibition, Boyett, and Title Contender.

Ross won the 1985 Longacres Mile with Chum Salmon and knows a serious contender when he sees one. He said Stryker Phd is good enough to win Sunday, and the betting public likely will agree.

Key contenders

Stryker Phd (Last 3 Beyers: 91-97-85)

* Stryker Phd had just one career victory in a maiden race on the turf at Golden Gate Fields prior to his runner-up finish at 15-1 in the 2013 Longacres Mile. He has won all three of his Emerald starts since and never has finished worse than second at Sunday’s one-mile distance.

Prohibition (Last 3 Beyers: 91-98-71)

* Prohibition has made 17 starts, all in New York, Pennsylvania, or Delaware, while recently emerging as a stakes competitor. Northwest owners Mark Dedomenico and Glen Todd paid $120,000 for Prohibition at an auction of horses of racing age in Kentucky last month. His previous owners claimed the horse for $7,500 at Delaware last September.

* Prohibition finished fourth in a key race at Belmont Park in his last start May 31. The top three finishers all returned to win their next starts. Among them, Zivo upset Moreno in the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont Park, and Big Business posted a 103 Beyer in a romping allowance victory.

Title Contender (Last 3 Beyers: 87-89-90)

* Title Contender recorded his signature victory in the Grade 3 Ohio Derby last July and later won the British Columbia Derby at Hastings. He has stepped forward this summer as the leading handicap horse in Vancouver, with three stakes victories from five starts.

* Regular rider Rico Walcott will travel from Northlands Park to ride Title Contender. Walcott is having a remarkable summer in Edmonton – 31 percent winners, 73 percent in the money, and a commanding lead in the earnings race. Walcott has never ridden at Emerald Downs.

Boyett (Last 3 Beyers: 85-90-89)

* Boyett began his career at Emerald Downs, winning a maiden race on a wet track in his first start. He remains a question mark on fast dirt (0 for 4), and trainer Mark Glatt said his chief concern is how well Boyett can transfer his sharp grass form to the sandy dirt at Emerald Downs.

* Boyett is 12-1 on the morning line, and jockey Agapito Delgadillo has been handy with longshots. He finished second Wednesday at Del Mar with a 27-1 shot and popped with a $57 winner Thursday.

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 2 Dontmesswithkitten. Trainer Chris Stenslie is 40 for 196 with a $2.01 ROI over the past five years in dirt routes.Click for more details. Mike Hogan