08/15/2009 11:00PM

Wide draw can't stop Assessment

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AUBURN, Wash. - Assessment overcame a daunting draw and a formidable field to capture the on Sunday at Emerald Downs, beating 2-1 wagering favorite Awesome Gem by three-quarters of a length. Teide was a nose back in third, a half-length ahead of 2008 Mile winner Wasserman in the field of 12.

Marooned in the 12 post position, which hadn't yielded a Mile winner since the inaugural running in 1935, Assessment and jockey Gallyn Mitchell tracked the leaders through the first half-mile before surging into contention around the second turn. Assessment collared pacesetter Atta Boy Roy near the sixteenth pole and held Awesome Gem safe, paying $16.60 as the third choice in the wagering and earning $165,000 for owners Lou and Diane Tice of Seattle.

"It worked just like we planned it - three speed horses going and us dropping over," winning trainer Howard Belvoir said. "We got a better trip than we thought we would."

Assessment ran the mile in 1:33.40, two-fifths of a second off Sky Jack's track record.

"I couldn't have drawn it up any better," Mitchell said. "I got to save a little ground, and I peeked up and saw the leaders were going pretty fast. Before I knew it, I was running them down."

Awesome Gem, second in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Stakes on the Del Mar turf in his most recent start, rallied from 11th place on the backstretch, just missing despite a wide trip.

"We kept him in the clear," Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze said of Awesome Gem, a late runner who finished third behind Curlin in the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic. "But we lost too much ground to do that. He handled the track well; he just lost too much ground. He closed well, but he had to use his move to get up to the front."

Atta Boy Roy, who equaled the six-furlong track record of 1:07.40 in his Emerald Downs debut June 6, zipped through a half-mile in 44 seconds and six furlongs in 1:07.60 before yielding to finish fifth. He was followed by Bank Emblem, Autism Awareness, Gallon, 7-2 second favorite Sierra Sunset, Kruger Park, Trumpet Player Jay, and Crafty Power.

As part of the Breeders' Cup Win and You're In program, Assessment earned an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 7 at Santa Anita. When asked about a possible Breeders' Cup run shortly after the race, Lou Tice deferred to Belvoir, who was noncommittal. Assessment has run seven times in 2009, all at Emerald Downs. He won the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 21 and the nine-furlong Mount Rainier Handicap on July 26, the two key steppingstones to the Mile.

A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old gelding by Jump Start from the Silver Ghost mare Native Ghost, Assessment has won 7 of 25 starts. The Mile victory boosted his career earnings to $355,980.