NORTHWEST FARMS’ POWERHOUSE TRIO
HEADLINE SUNDAY’S $50,000 SEATTLE HANDICAP
Upon entering one of his patented three-horse entries, the late great Charlie Whittingham would proclaim to the world, “We got ’em surrounded.”
Sunday, trainer Tom Wenzel and owner Northwest Farms will do a pretty fair impression of Whittingham when they send out three of the eight horses in the $50,000 Seattle Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at 6 ½ furlongs. And not just any three horses; Blueberry Smoothie, Goin to the Window and Stopshoppingdebbie are very likely to be the top three betting choices in the race.
Goin to the Window is unbeaten in two starts and was voted Top 2-Year-old Filly at Emerald Downs in 2012. Blueberry Smoothie is 2-1-0 in three starts, the only loss a runner-up finish to Goin to the Window in the Angie C Stakes. And Stopshoppingdebbie, while least experienced of the three, was awesome in her only race and has trained exceptionally well for her 2013 debut including a show-stopping 1:10 2/5 six-furlong drill from the gate last week.
The good news for handicappers is that, even though Northwest Farms (Jerre Paxton) owns all three fillies—Blueberry Smoothie and Goin to the Window in partnership, Stopshoppingdebbie outright—they will race uncoupled in the wagering.
Wenzel, naturally, is high on all three runners, and why not? All are impeccably bred—sired by Curlin, Tapit and Giant’s Causeway, out of blue hen mares Taste the Passion, Queens Full and Shampoo. That’s about as good as it gets in these parts, but perhaps even more importantly, all three have acted like runners since arriving at the Wenzel barn last year.
“They were all kind of precocious as 2-year-olds,” Wenzel said. “The only adjustment this year is that we didn’t get any practice races (before the stakes), and we’ve had to train aggressively because of that. Six and a-half furlongs is a difficult distance first time out.”
It wouldn’t be fair to ask Wenzel which of the three fillies he preferred Sunday in the Seattle Handicap. But we did anyway, only the trainer wouldn’t take the bait.
“That’s why they run races, because that’s the way we find out,” Wenzel said. “There are eight fillies in the race, anything can happen.
“Blueberry Smoothie is the smallest of the three,” he added. “The other two have more size but they’re not giants. They’ve all got good bodies, they’re put together well.”
· The Seattle Handicap goes as race eight at 5:48 p.m.
· Exclusive Diva, owned by Northwest Farms and trained by Wenzel, won the 2012 Seattle Handicap in a stakes record-tying 1:14.58. Shampoo, dam of Blueberry Smoothie, won the race in 2007 when it was named the Federal Way Handicap, and Taste the Passion, dam of both Stopshoppingdebbie and Shampoo, finished runner-up in 2001.
· Mike Puhich, on a stakes roll with a victory by Hoist in the Governor’s Handicap, saddles Innocent Love for Pegasus Syndicate 7. A daughter of Grand Slam, Innocent Love has never finished out of the exacta in six career starts, and she leads the field in earnings with $75,150.
· Two owners compose five of the eight entrants, as E.M. Braithwaite sends out Locket and Lasting Rose.
The field from the rail out for Sunday’s $50,000 Seattle Handicap: Locket, Eliska Kubinova, 114 lbs; Sunset Time, David G. Lopez, 117; Stopshoppingdebbie, Rocco Bowen, 116; Song of Seattle, Debbie Hoonan, 113; Goin to the Window, Juan Gutierrez, 120; Blueberry Smoothie, Javier Matias, 119; Lasting Rose, Nate Chaves, 115; Innocent Love, Isaias Enriquez, 118.
Wasserman and Jennifer Whitaker winning a Friday feature race in 2012
WASSERMAN HOPES FOR FAST PACE FRIDAY
Trainer Howard Belvoir knows swift early fractions would improve Wasserman’s chances markedly Friday when the 11-year-old gelding suits up for his 66th career start at Emerald Downs.
The problem is, deciphering the likely pacesetter could prove difficult in the $13,750 feature race at 6 ½ furlongs, as each of the field’s six runners show a stalking or late-closing style in their running lines. Moreover, the pace scenario might have been hindered Thursday when Belvoir scratched stablemate Advancement in favor of a softer spot on Sunday’s card.
Regardless of what it looks like on paper, Belvoir suspects a strong pace will develop for Wasserman on Friday.
“I think there will be more speed in this race than people think,” Belvoir said. “Especially if the track comes up sloppy.”
The track’s all-time leading earner with $562,993, Wasserman likely wouldn’t appreciate a sloppy track considering he’s 0-for-15 on a wet surface. The 6-½ furlongs, however, is a perfect fit as Wasserman is 5-0-4 in 12 starts at the distance including consecutive scores in the 2007 and 2008 Governor's Handicaps.
Wasserman comes off an encouraging third-place effort for the same $17,500 claiming price on May 10, and Belvoir said he was proud of that effort, but that it was even better than it shows on paper.
“He got into a little bit of trouble in that race the other day,” Belvoir said. “He had to steady a little bit, otherwise he might have finished even closer.”
Along with Wasserman, Friday’s six-pack includes another grizzled veteran with the 2013 debut of 10-time Emerald Downs’ winner Go With Gusto. An 8-year-old New York-bred son of Yonaguska, Go With Gusto was a contender for last meet’s Top Claimer following a seven-race campaign that included a four-race win streak.
Ugottabcatty has trained forwardly for his season debut including a :58 3/5 (1/31) bullet breeze on April 28. That bodes well for the 7-year-old Washington-bred gelding by Jazzing Around, who has a first, second or third in 20 of 25 career starts at Emerald Downs. The rest of the field includes Rezar, 2011 Chinook Pass Stakes winner Our Eagle Boy and Dare Me Devil.
BEWARE THE STENSLIE FIRST-TIME STARTER
The 2013 meeting is only 20 percent complete—15 days down, 60 to go—but Chris Stenslie is on pace to capture her first Emerald Downs training title. And with 14 wins in 40 starts (35 percent) she’s also on pace to win 70 races and break the single-season record of 66 wins set by Tim McCanna in 2008.
A key to Stenslie’s success is her remarkable ability with first-time starters; she’s already clicked with five debutantes and none were betting favorites. Boyett ($8.80), Lumen Took It ($10), Ankeny Hill ($10), Jade Road ($4.80) and Walllula Bluffs ($17.20) all won as first-time starters.
HOLIDAY RACING MONDAY ON MEMORIAL DAY
This week marks one of only three four-day racing weeks at the 2013 meeting, with live racing at 6:45 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Entries are strong for holiday weekend, with average field size 7.8 horses on Friday and 7.7 horses on both Saturday and Sunday. Entries for Monday will be taken Friday.
NOTES: Weekly honors: Trainer-Mike Puhich (4-3-0-0); Jockey-Isaias Enriquez (18-5-2-2);Owner-Savario Farm (2-1-0-1); Groom-Mike “Spanky” LeClair (trainer Neil Knapp); Washington-bred: Stryker Phd (breeder Char Clark Thoroughbreds & Todd Havens)…Hoist earned a career-high 89 Beyer for his one-length win in Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Handicap and runner-up Stryker Phd tied his career-high with an 87, although his previous best was earned on turf…Off at odds of 40-1, Stryker Phd paid a meet-high $31.40 to place…Makors Finale sat out the Governor’s but apparently is much better, as the 4-year-old colt worked a half-mile in :48 2/5 Wednesday on a sloppy track, and trainer Tom Wenzel remains optimistic the 2012 WTBOA Horse of the Year will make the $50,000 Budweiser Handicap on Sunday, June 16…River of Aces got a career-high 75 Beyer for her 2 ½-length win in last Friday’s feature race for older fillies and mares. The 4-year-old daughter of Sam’s Ace is four-for-nine lifetime with earnings of $39,847 for trainer Charles Essex…Cariboo Road earned a career-high 76 for his 4 ¾-length win in Saturday’s feature race for 3-year-olds. The Cahill Road gelding is two-for-two at the meet and three-for-nine lifetime with earnings of $48,644 for trainer Dan Markle…Margo’s Gift (28-9-3-4-$356,507) is featured in this week’s edition of Thoroughbreds After The Finish Line. The 8-year-old gelding is profiled in the track’s official program with additional photos and video available at emeralddowns.com…Jose Zunino sustained a knee injury in a bumping incident in Sunday’s fifth race and will be sidelined several weeks, according to agent Hugh Wales…Claiming activity is up over 40 percent from last year with 21 claims totaling $143,000 through Sunday. Already this year Tough Road Ahead and Memphis Beach have been claimed for $17,500, and Touch of Elegance and Southern Solution both changed barns for $15,000…Fans can go on-line for Emerald Downs stakes nominations, weights and past performances at: http://www.emeralddowns.com/subcontent.aspx?SecID=1030 …Trainer Joe Toye has arrived from Turf Paradise and plans to begin entering horses in the next several days…Raised a Secret, third in the 2012 Gottstein Futurity, runs in a $54,000 allowance sprint Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park. Owned by Dr. Rodney Orr and trained by Mark Glatt, Raised a Secret most recently finished fifth in the $200,000 Echo Eddie Stakes at Santa Anita and second in the $70,000 Grey Memo Stakes at Hollywood Park…Incidentally, Orr is the leading owner at Emerald Downs this year with a 5-0-1 mark in nine starts. Randall & Rossi (12-3-6-0) and Saratoga West (21-3-2-5) are tied for second in the owners’ standings…Saturday’s $14,375 feature race for 3-year-olds and up at Emerald Downs includes the second and third-place finishers in the 2011 Gottstein Futurity: Havanna Red and Leadership. A field of six race six furlongs for a $25,000 claiming price, topped by the Jim Penney-trained I Keep Saying, who was disqualified from the victory on April 27 for a late bumping incident with Cariboo Road. Cariboo Road was promoted to first and came back to score by 4 ¾ lengths vs. allowance/optional claimers…Friday at Hollywood Park, 2010 Emerald Derby runner-up Ain races 1-½ miles on turf in a $54,000 allowance race for 3-year-olds and up…A couple of Washingtonians will team up in Southern California, as Joe Steiner has hired Ivan Puhich as jockey’s agent. Puhich most recently worked for 2012 Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez…Congrats to owner Ron Maus and trainer Frank Lucarelli as Candy for Debbie produced a $28.60 win mutuel Thursday in a $25,000 claiming race with a $32,000 purse at Betfair Hollywood Park. A 5-year-old gelding with nine career wins, Candy for Debbie defeated Kooky Saluki in a $25,000 claiming race last year at Emerald Downs…EmD fastest times (thru May 19): 5F: Seattle Game :56.80, April 27; 5 ½ F: Exclusive Diva 1:01.56, April 21; 6F: Polish Dollar 1:08.09, April 20; 6 ½ F: Hoist 1:14.78, May 19; 1M Ontheshadyside (dq),1:37.02, May 18…Horses with 2 wins: Just Meteor (3-2-0-1); Come On Partner (3-2-0-1); Polish Dollar (2-2-0-0); Cariboo Road (2-2-0-0); Southern Solution (2-2-0-0); Jade Road (2-2-0-0); Roarified (2-2-0-0); Olympic Lights (2-2-0-0); Grab the Goods (2-2-0-0).