08/11/2009 12:00AM

Trainer hot over Mile snub


AUBURN, Wash. - California invaders Awesome Gem and Autism Awareness will carry high weight of 122 pounds if they start as expected Sunday in the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile, and Assessment, the leading contender among horses stabled at Emerald Downs, will pack 119.

Dixie Meister? A two-time graded-stakes winner of nearly $700,000, he received a 114-pound assignment when the Emerald Downs director of racing. Bret Anderson, released the numbers. With 19 horses weighted higher and the field restricted to 12 in order of weight, Dixie Meister's assignment all but eliminated him from the Mile and brought his trainer, Mike Puhich, to a rapid boil.

"I'm shocked and disappointed. I'm livid, really," Puhich said. "I've got the second-leading money-winner in the race, he's been running against the best horses on the West Coast, he had a trouble line in his last race, and they give him 114? I don't know how they can justify that. I'm stunned."

A four-person board of handicappers assigned weights to the 26 Mile nominees. Anderson said recent form was most important in their deliberations.

Dixie Meister captured the Grade 2 Californian at Hollywood Park in 2006 and the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita in 2007. He finished fourth in the $1 million Godolphin Mile in Dubai in March 2007, but because of injuries has raced only six times since. In his 2009 debut, following a six-month layoff, he finished third behind Rail Trip in the Santana Mile Handicap at Santa Anita, and then was sixth, beaten six lengths by Assessment, in the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 21.

Puhich took exception to the 115-pound assignments given to Chhaya Dance, who has raced once in the past year, and Exclusive Schemes, who was claimed for $25,000 on June 26.

Said Puhich, "My horse, in April, ran third behind Rail Trip, who just won the Hollywood Gold Cup by the length of the grandstand. Elusive Schemes is a sharp horse, but what has he done? He was running for $25,000."

Anderson said Dixie Meister got a fair shake.

"He hasn't won a race in two years," he said. "Elusive Schemes's last race was better. I know Dixie Meister was third at Santa Anita, but that was a four-horse field. It's current form, not what you did three or four years ago."