08/18/2010 1:19PM

Wasserman gets a spot in Longacres Mile

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Emerald Downs
Wasserman (No. 6) will attempt to win his second Longacres Mile title on Sunday at Emerald Downs.

AUBURN, Wash. – The Longacres Mile field lost one contender early this week, when an injury forced Rooster City to the sideline. But his exit provided a welcome opening for trainer Howard Belvoir and his 2008 Mile winner, Wasserman, who was all but guaranteed a spot in Sunday’s Grade 3, $250,000 race at Emerald Downs.

Rooster City fell victim to an unspecified injury, trainer Tim McCanna said Monday, leaving just 13 horses to vie for 12 starting spots when entries were taken Wednesday morning. Wasserman was assigned 114 pounds for the Mile, one more than Dixie Meister, who was on the outside looking in.

Wasserman, who has won just twice in 14 starts since his dramatic, come-from-behind victory in the 2008 Mile, will be an afterthought in the wagering, and Belvoir said that’s fine by him.

“He may not fit in there, but I’m glad he’s getting in,” Belvoir said. “It gives me a chance. You know, you can’t win it, if you’re not in it. But you look at his form and you know he’s got to step up.”

Wasserman, who has won more money at Washington racetracks than any other horse, has yet to crack the top three in five starts this year. He finished fifth, eight lengths behind probable Mile favorite Noosa Beach, in the 1 1/8-mile Mount Rainier Handicap in his last start Aug. 1. Wasserman’s last official workout came July 24, when he breezed five furlongs. Belvoir said Wasserman gallops virtually every day and would start Sunday without the benefit of another work.

Belvoir will have two chances to make Mile history; a victory by Wasserman or Assessment would make him the first trainer to saddle three consecutive winners of the Northwest’s only graded race. Assessment, who captured the 2009 running, worked six furlongs Sunday in 1:12.40, and Belvoir expects the 6-year-old to be a serious contender. Assessment upset Noosa Beach in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap on July 11 and then was a perplexing sixth in the Mount Rainier after failing sustain a spirited bid at the three-eighths pole.

“He’s trained good, he worked good, and I think he’ll run good,” Belvoir said.

Several potential Mile starters went through their final training paces early this week. Jersey Town, trained by McCanna, worked seven furlongs Sunday in 1:27.60 on a day when the Emerald strip was a few ticks slower than normal, and Gallon, winner of the 2008 Emerald Derby via disqualification, zipped five furlongs in 58.80 seconds, the fastest of 26 works at the distance.

At Hastings in Vancouver, B.C., last Friday, Teide, third in the 2009 Mile, went six furlongs in 1:13.40. A day later, his stablemate, Burj Dubai, blazed five furlongs in a freakishly fast 57.40. Teide, Burj Dubai, and Almost Time, all trained by Dino Condilenios for owner Swift Thoroughbreds Inc., are scheduled to arrive at Emerald Downs on Friday morning, two days before the Mile.

Noosa Beach and Gallant Son, expected to vie for favoritism Sunday, were scheduled to work Wednesday morning, shortly before the draw for post positions. Noosa Beach worked a slow four furlongs three days before winning the Mount Rainier in a rout, and trainer Doris Harwood said she would take a similar approach to the Mile.

“When I was getting him fit earlier this year, I worked him faster,” she said. “Now that he’s fit, I don’t ask him to work that fast. He’ll work an easy half Wednesday morning. He’s fit, he’s ready, he’s sharp. We’re just trying to make sure he doesn’t kill himself before the race.”

◗ Emerald Downs received permission from the Washington Horse Racing Commission to add one day to the 2010 meeting. The extra card will be conducted Wednesday, Sept. 22, with a special 1 p.m. post time. Instead of 89 days, the meeting will consist of an even 90. Getaway Day is Sept. 26.

“We wanted horsemen to have an extra day of racing, and closing week of the meet is a great fit,” Emerald’s director of marketing, Adrian Buchan, said. “This also gives us an opportunity to test the appetite for Emerald Downs racing on an atypical day and time.”

◗ Track president Ron Crockett stopped short of guaranteeing a Quarter Horse race would be staged at Emerald on Sept. 25 but said plans for a 350-yard challenge race were nearly complete.

“We’re trying to make it all work,” Crockett said Tuesday. “We have to resurvey to put everything at the right location, so we can time the races properly. We’re going through the hoops right now, but I’m confident the race will happen.”

◗ New at Emerald Downs this week: $2,500 claiming races. Previously, bottom-level older horses had competed for a $3,500 claiming price.

“I don’t know if it makes that much difference,” Crockett said of the new minimum. “But to some of the horsemen it does, and we do the best we can to accommodate them.”