OPPORTUNISTIC TOPPLES UNBEATEN BARKLEY IN THRILLER
AUBURN, Wash. (July 31, 2016) – Barkley finally had his undefeated bubble burst Sunday at Emerald Downs.
He went down swinging, though, dropping a tough head decision to Canadian invader Opportunistic in the $75,100 Emerald Downs Derby for 3-year-old colts and geldings. It was the first lifetime defeat for Barkley, a Munnings colt who came within inches of sweeping the 3-year-old division this season at Emerald Downs.
Ridden by David G. Lopez at 122 lbs, Opportunistic ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.92 and paid $13.40, $4.40 and $3.20. Mike Puhich is the winning trainer for owners Mark Dedomenico and North American Thoroughbred Horse Co. Inc.
Barkley, the 9-10 favorite ridden by Javier Matias at 122 lbs, rallied wide on the last turn, gained a short lead past mid-stretch, but was out finished in a head-and-head drive to the wire. Barkley—now 6-for-7 with earnings of $149,275—paid $2.80 and $2.10.
Silvertown, another shipper from Canada, was 5 ½ lengths back in third place and paid $5 to show. Mach One Rules, second choice at 2-1, finished fourth and was followed by Wando Cat and Huya.
A Kentucky-bred by Sky Mesa-Mona Quita, Opportunistic improved to 3-0-0 in seven starts with earnings of $87,827, including $41,250 for Sunday’s victory. After racing five times for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in California, Opportunistic shipped to Vancouver and captured last month’s Chris Loseth Handicap at Hastings Racecourse.
“He’s growing up mentally,” Lopez said. “He won very impressively last time even with no pace when he made a big move in the turn. And today, we were looking forward with him, we knew he could run.
“I was a little concerned to be in a spot I didn’t want to be, but I was stuck between horses and I said, “What am I doing here?” But, you know how the race went, he showed he was brave and good enough to win the race. I was a little worried because I was a nose in the front, but it’s hard to keep your position with Barkley because Barkley can run. I didn’t want to think about it, just keep going, and he really showed me he can run.”
Opportunistic was in fifth place on the backstretch as Huya set fractions of :23.10, :46.52 and 1:10.14. On the last turn, Opportunistic was able to save more ground than Barkley, who was carried five-wide into the lane. Still, it appeared Barkley would prevail again, putting his big white face in front past the eighth pole. But Opportunistic summoned up a final late surge for the victory.
“He always tries, like today,” Matias said of Barkley. “But the whole way I was so wide, because I got taken wide (by Huya and Mach One Rules). That’s horse racing, you know? You win like that and you lose like that. I can’t complain about it.
“He’s a great racehorse, and I got second place. Yesterday in California the big horse (Beholder) ran second, so it happens that way sometimes. I think Barkley’s going to be okay for next year.”
Trained by Howard Belvoir and co-owned by Belvoir and Rising Star Stable III, Barkley earned $17,000 for his runner-up finish, culminating a brilliant sophomore season that saw the colt compile a 4-1-0 record in five starts. After winning a six-furlong allowance race in his season debut, Barkley defeated Mach One Rules three straight times by margins of a head, a neck and a head, before finally dropping Sunday’s decision to Opportunistic.
Mach One Rules, meanwhile, lacked his customary speed and faded to finish fourth. Tucked in third place behind Huya and Silvertown on the backstretch, Mach One Rules came up empty way in the lane.
“I thought I was sitting in a good spot, but at the head of the lane, I got crowded by Barkley on one side and Opportunistic on the other side, I just think we just ran even from there,” jockey Leslie Mawing said. “I was in the perfect spot. I just wish he gave me a better kick down the lane, but he just didn’t have it today, so that’s horse racing.”
Opportunistic is now eligible for a $25,000 (Cdn) bonus if he wins the British Columbia Derby on September 10 at Hastings Racecourse.
NOTES: Rocco Bowen rode two more winners Sunday, extending his streak to 17 days with at least one win, but was off his final six mounts with a sore foot. Atop the riders’ standings with 75 wins, Bowen is named on two horses Monday at Assiniboia Downs, including Break the Silence in the $75,000 Manitoba Derby. . .Isaias Enriquez also rode two winners on Sunday’s 10-race card. . .Mike Puhich was the only trainer with two wins Sunday including the win by Opportunistic in the Derby. . .Ronald Richard prevailed in the Jockey Foot Race and earned a $1,000 donation in his name to assist Diego Sanchez via the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund. . .Come On Cozzene ($6.80) improved to 12-for-38 at Emerald Downs with a victory in Sunday’s fourth race. A 7-year-old Washington-bred, Come On Cozzene has nine wins and over $50,000 in earnings in 2015-16. . . In one of the day’s most exciting races, Fire the Trainer ($13.40) tagged Inexcess Again in the final stride for a nose victory in a $25,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up. Winning his second straight, Fire the Trainer ran six furlongs in 1:08.60. . . .Although denied in the Emerald Downs Derby, Matias and Belvoir did combine for a 7 ¾-length triumph with The Press ($5) in race seven for 3-year-olds. A Washington-bred by Harbor the Gold-Awesome Woman, The Press zipped six furlongs in 1:08.79 and has won two of his last three starts. . .In one of the bigger claims of the meet, 3-year-old gelding Timberfaller was claimed from race seven for $22,500 by trainer Blaine Wright for owner Andy Spitalny. . .Emerald Downs track-record holder Kaabraaj finished fourth at 43-1 as Lord Nelson ($4.60) ran six furlongs in 1:07.65 to capture the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar. . .Jeff Metz, trainer of Kaabraaj, continues to top the Emerald Downs standings with 32 wins. . .Sunday’s mutuel handle of $1,622,932 was up over 25 percent from the corresponding day in 2015. . .Hastings Racecourse has a holiday card Monday, featuring six stakes highlighted by the $75,000 Pacific Customs Brokers Classic Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. Trainer Dino Condilenios and owner Swift Thoroughbreds, third with Silvertown in the Emerald Downs Derby, send out 8-5 morning line favorite Modern in the PCBCH. . .Live racing resumes Friday with a seven-race program at 6:30 p.m., including a $5,857 carryover in the $0.50 Pick 5.