Emerald Downs News and Stable Notes
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Couldabenthewhisky and trainer Bonnie Jenne
COULDABENTHEWHISKY READY TO FACE THE
BIG BOYS AT THE 2012 EMERALD DOWNS’ MEETING
Trainer Bonnie Jenne knows that the $200,000 Longacres Mile (GIII) is still four months, two weeks and one day away.
And yet, every morning she loves to tell her star-studded 4-year-old Couldabenthewhisky that he’s going to win the Emerald Downs’ most prestigious event, and the capstone race in the older-horse stakes circuit.
“The Mile is our goal, so of course we’re thinking about it,” Jenne said. “I got my eye on the pie.”
For most horses, Couldabenthewhisky’s 3-year-old campaign would be enviable. He dominated a talented 9-pack in May’s Jim Coleman Province at Hastings Park last year, and notched two runner-up finishes in the Emerald Downs’ stakes division. But for ‘Whisky, it’s the Ricky Bobby mantra, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”
Voted Top Juvenile of 2009, Washington-bred Couldabenthewhisky set the bar high with his sensational 2-year-old season, winning three stakes races, including the venerable Gottstein Futurity. If it weren’t for Noosa Beach’s record-breaking year, Couldabenthewhisky would have led the meeting in stakes wins and earnings.
Now, Couldabenthewhisky must face Noosa Beach, who has owned the handicap division for the past two years. The Washington-bred’s versatility could be key to upending the two-time reigning champ. In 11 career starts, Couldabenthewhisky has won at five different distances, two separate tracks, and has washed away his foes by a combined 7-½ lengths in his two sloppy-surface stakes victories. Can Couldabenthewhisky ascend from the sophomore division to face the big boys? His trainer seems to think so.
“I swear, he is better this year than he was last year,” Jenne said. “Just wait and see, he’s going to make some noise.”
TRAINER FRANK LUCARELLI SET TO DEFEND TITLE
Trainer Frank Lucarelli, ranked second all-time with 676 Emerald Downs’ wins, will return for the track’s 17th season-opener on Friday, April 13, hoping to become only the second trainer—behind Tim McCanna—to notch back-to-back training championships.
It came down to the last day, but Lucarelli edged Howard Belvoir 53-to-52 to capture the 2011 crown and his fourth career Emerald Downs’ title. A repeat for Lucarelli, who will start the meet with 45 horses, should be well within his reach.
“I’m heading into the meet with enough horse power to (win the title),” Lucarelli said. “It’s going to depend what races come up and where my horses fit in each category.”
Despite winning at a 25 percent clip, Lucarelli surprisingly finished without a stakes win last season, only the second time that’s happened in the past nine seasons. Don’t bet on that happening again this season. This season, Lucarelli has a stakes-type for nearly every division and at least three for the older-horse circuit.
Winning Machine, Top 3-Year-Old of 2009, has already started training for Lucarelli, including a six-furlong bullet work in 1:12.40 (1/3) on March 30. Lucarelli said Wednesday that recently-gelded Posse Power, third in last year’s Longacres Mile, and the track’s Top 2-Year-Old of 2008 Gallant Son would also return to Emerald Downs in mid-summer to challenge Noosa Beach for Top Older Horse. Running mostly on the turf in California, Gallant Son last raced at Emerald Downs in 2010, when he finished sixth as the second-favorite to Noosa Beach in the Longacres Mile.
NOTES: Emerald Downs has announced its 2012 sponsors for weekly honors. Once again, Joe and Sally Steiner's Quarter Chute Care will sponsor Groom of the Week, Purina will sponsor Trainer of the Week, The Gift Horse will sponsor Jockey of the Week and Emerald Downs will sponsor Owner of the Week...The 2012 Emerald Downs’ Media Guides have arrived! A compilation of race history and statistics—dating back to the track’s inception in 1996—the media guides rank second-to-none in record keeping for racetracks across the country. A limited supply will be available in The Gift Horse for a nominal fee of $10…Head clocker Joan Hutcheson timed the track’s first two Quarter horse workouts on Wednesday, in preparation for the 2012 meeting. Both Raising Kane and Cash Baq worked 330 yards in 17.80 and 18.20, respectively. Emerald Downs will host the $60,000 Bank of America Challenge Championship at 440 yards on September 2…Congratulations to former Emerald Downs’ jockey and now trainer Gennadi Dorochenko, who won the $1 million Louisiana Derby Sunday with 109-1 longshot Hero of Order. 53-year-old Dorochenko, 5-9-2 in 68 career starts at Emerald Downs, last rode the Auburn oval during the 1996-97 meet, where he had one winner in eight starts… Keeneland Racetrack will kickoff it’s 15-day spring meet on Friday, headlined by the $100,000 Transylvania Stakes (GIII)…Come watch and wager Saturday’s weekend derby races at Emerald Downs. Both the Santa Anita Derby and Hawthorne’s Illinois Derby could have implications on the 138th Running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs.