07/25/2008 12:00AM

Wasserman preps in Mt. Rainier


AUBURN, Wash. - Of the dozen renewals of the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs, six have been won by locally based horses. And of those half-dozen Mile winners, four have exited the nine-furlong Mt. Rainier Handicap, which will be contested Sunday with a purse of $75,000.

The Mile winners who prepped in the Mt. Rainier were Edneator in 2000, Sabertooth in 2002, Flamethrowintexan in 2006, and The Great Face last year. In addition, Kid Katabatic prepped for his 1997 victory in the 1 1/16-mile Budweiser-Emerald, which was the "long" Mile prep that year. The other locally based Mile winner, No Giveaway, prepped for his 2005 score in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap, which was run on the same day as the Mt. Rainier until this year.

This year, the Governor's was moved back to July 6, six weeks out from the Mile, and it was won for the second straight year by Wasserman. The Howard Belvoir-trained Wasserman will have a chance to become the first horse to win both the Governor's and the Mt. Rainier in the same year on Sunday, though it is debatable how much of a chance he really has.

"Everybody tells me he can't go that far, so maybe it's not realistic at all," Belvoir said. "He is going to run, though, and we're trying to win it. I always try to win."

The case against Wasserman is built on his 0-for-17 record around two turns. He ran third in last year's Longacres Mile, however, and he was second and third in the last two renewals of the Muckleshoot Classic at 1 1/16 miles.

"It's not like he hasn't run some good races around two turns," Belvoir said. "Also, I think he is better this year than he has ever been. He looks better, he is carrying more weight, and he is happier. He might be ready to run a little farther than he has in the past."

If it turns out that Wasserman can't get the nine furlongs of the Mt. Rainier, all will not be lost. Neither Edneator nor Sabertooth could get the Mt. Rainier distance, but the race set them up for their big efforts in the Mile.

"This race isn't our main objective," Belvoir said. "I've only worked him once since the Governor's. I haven't really tried to gear him up for this race. It's the Mile that we're shooting for. If he can come running at the end and get part, I'll be happy. An effort like that could set him up just right for the Mile."

Distance to benefit Penney pair

While the nine furlongs of the Mt. Rainier might prove an obstacle for Wasserman, trainer Jim Penney and his crew, including assistant trainer Kay Cooper, feel it will be just the ticket for their duo of Jamaica Bound and Honour the West.

"I think they'll both benefit from the extra distance," Cooper said. "Jamaica Bound ran a very good second in last year's Emerald Derby at this distance, and he really moved forward when we finally got to stretch him out to a mile last time in the Budweiser-Emerald. He is training really well, and we're expecting him to run a big race."

The late-running Jamaica Bound should be nicely complemented by Honour the West, who is coming off a front-running mile win over $25,000 claimers in a quick 1:36.60.

"He is taking a big step up in class, but he is bred top and bottom to go a distance of ground and he might be the only real speed in this field," Cooper said. "There are some others who have speed, but he is the only one who really likes to run on the lead, and that's where we expect him to be. If things go his way, he could surprise some people."

Jamaica Bound and Honour the West were assigned 114 pounds and 112 pounds, respectively, but their regular riders, Gallyn Mitchell and Leslie Mawing, usually ride several pounds heavier. Regardless, they will retain the mounts.

"It would be nice if they could get within a few pounds of their assignments, especially at 1 1/8 miles," Cooper said. "But it is more important to us to have riders who know these horses and fit them well. These are the riders we want."

Margo's Gift getting time off

Five-time sprint stakes winner Margo's Gift will get a break after running second in a one-mile allowance race last Saturday, according to trainer Doris Harwood.

"I'm going to turn him out for a few weeks, and I'm not even going to nominate him for the Seattle Slew Handicap and the Emerald Derby," Harwood said. "We figure if he can't beat allowance horses at a mile, he probably isn't going to beat stakes horses at 1 1/16 miles or 1 1/8 miles. It's pretty clear to us that what we've got is a really good closing sprinter, and we want to let him do what he does best."

Harwood said the 3-year-old Margo's Gift, who is now 0 for 4 in routes, will probably route once more in the restricted Trooper Seven Stakes at a mile on Washington-bred Day, Sept. 14. After that, Harwood said she would like to try him on Santa Anita's downhill turf course.

Training at Portland opens soon

Portland Meadows will soon open for training in preparation for its October-to-March meeting, according to Oregon HBPA executive secretary Dick Cartney. He said the track has invited approved horsemen to begin moving in equipment Monday. Horses may enter the grounds Aug. 1, and the main track opens for training Aug. 8.

Meanwhile, negotiations are proceeding for a contract between the track and horsemen, and the HBPA has taken over negotiations for an agreement with TVG on source market fees for wagers made through TVG by Oregon residents.