EVERYTHING FINE WITH BACKGROUND AND BOWEN
AUBURN, Wash. (August 16) – The morning after the biggest victory of his riding career, jockey Rocco Bowen was still on an emotional high.
“It still doesn’t feel like it’s real,” Bowen said. “This is home for me. Being back at Emerald Downs and riding for guys like Alan Bozell and Tom Wenzel, seeing Sally (Steiner) in the kitchen, getting a big cheer from fans in the jockey introductions. And then winning the Mile, it’s unbelievable.”
The only jockey to win three straight riding titles at Emerald Downs, Bowen rode three winners in his first appearance here since 2018. The biggest victory, of course, was a desperate head triumph aboard 2 to 1 favorite Background in the 86th running of the $100,000 Longacres Mile (G3).
Showing resilience and tenacity in a grueling stretch run, Background nailed long shot Windribbon in the final jump, completing the mile in 1:36.67.
With the victory, Bowen, a 32-year-old native of Barbados, became the first black jockey to win the Longacres Mile. It also was his first graded stakes victory.
While the post-race winner’s circle scene with trainer Mike Puhich, owners Bob and Molly Rondeau and a tearful Bowen was exuberant, the rider said he spent a quiet Sunday evening dining at Applebee’s. Rocco plans to trail-ride around Enumclaw with friends the next couple days before returning to Chicago to finish out Arlington Park and ride the first two weeks at Hawthorne. After that comes vacation with family in Barbados and then back to Oaklawn Park for that track’s earliest ever opening Dec. 3.
Background, meanwhile, was relaxing at Pegasus Training and Rehabilitation Center in Redmond, where he was about to enjoy a salt-water spa.
“We’ll give him a little break at Pegasus,” Puhich said. “(Background) hasn’t had an easy race all year, so he deserves a little time off. We’ll get him ready for the same program next year, starting off at Oaklawn Park.”
A 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding by Khozan, Background is 3-2-1 in seven starts this year with earnings of $208,536. With Bowen riding, Background won two rich allowance races at Oaklawn Park ($106,000 and $88,000) and the $100,000 Longacres Mile. Background has an overall mark of 4-2-4 in 14 starts with earnings of $287,532.