It was a busy weekend at Emerald Downs and it began with the first Fab Friday of the year. Those who attended Friday not received a T-Shirt that will be good for free admission for all Fab Friday’s plus other perks and specials that come with the T-Shirt.
Highlights on the track included jockey Leonel Camacho-Flores who won two races including the 4th aboard Calculated Chaos which was Camacho-Flores’ 500th career win. Trainer Tom Wenzel also hit a benchmark number training his career 350th victory when Barasso upset the field in the opener at 15-1. Rocco Bowen won 3 of the 7 races and Juan Gutierrez had a riding double as well so Bowen, Gutierrez and Camacho-Flores swept the card.
It was an interesting day on Saturday with the return of crowd favorite Barkley and the 2nd horse running out of the Emerald Racing Club’s barn, McDove. Although there were high expectations for both horses both came up short of getting to the Winner’s Circle. McDove had her 200+ owners cheering her on as she made the break from the gates in the 6 furlong sprint.
The Larry Ross trained 4-year-old hung back as the front pace quickened as she entered the far turn she began picking it up under jockey Javier Matias and made a good run down the stretch to just miss 2nd place and a couple of lengths behind the winner Jerre to Carrie. McDove’s 1st run of the year for the ERC was extremely positive and will likely be one of the favorites in her next race.
The Emerald Racing Club was formed as a promotion to encourage horse ownership. The 200+ members each paid $500 to join the club and with that are licensed owners and get all the perks of a licensed owner such as access to morning workouts, free admission and more. At the end of the year the club splits any profits after all the expenses are paid but they max out at getting their $500 back.
We talked with 2 of the owners of McDove, Brad Hargrave and Brian Duke of Tumwater. Hargrave a Mortgage Broker and Duke a lifetime Educator have long been racing fans and both decided to become horse owners. Hargrave says he and his friends have always talked about it for years and this is a way to get a real life “test drive” so to speak. Hargrave with had his son-in-law Mike Haupert along for the outing.
ESN was there and we talked with both Hargrave and Duke and then stood with them as they watch McDove. We live tweeted the whole race and recorded it and you can find the interview at this link by clicking here.
This takes us to the feature where crowd favorite Barkley was making his season debut. Barkley came into the race after winning 6 Stakes races out of 7 with the only loss his final race where he was 2nd by a nose in the Emerald Derby. 4 of those wins last year were against Mach One Rules that set up a similar rivalry between Affirmed and Alydar back in the Triple Crown run of 1978.
Mach One Rules was also back and the 2 figured to pair off again in their 2017 debuts but there was one other horse that could be the spoiler. Prime Engine, a 5-year-old who was gelded since he last saw action in 2016. Prime Engine was spectacular as a 2-year-old winning the famed Gottstein Futurity and then taking the Emerald Derby as a 3-year-old. Prime Engine’s 4-year old season was cut short with 2 even performances in an allowance race and the Budweiser Handicap before throwing a complete dud in the Longacres Mile finishing 11th after showing brief speed.
Trainer Mike Puhich of the Dr Mike Dedomenico owned Stakes Winner knew he wasn’t quite right and immediately turned him out. Puhich says it was a combination of things and he just needed time away and to re-group that is when they decided to go ahead and geld him as well.
The public couldn’t decide who to favor as all 3 were between 8-5 and 2-1 but it was Prime Engine who was “Primed” for this race. Jockey Eswan Flores pushed him out of the gate and quickly hooked up with Barkley’s stablemate The Press in a front end dual. The Press in the number post had the inside so Flores sat right on his shoulder until he reached the top of the stretch and exploded getting a big jump on both Barkley and Mach One Returns. Prime Engine would hit the finish line in an eye opening 1:01:10 just a few ticks off the North American record for 5 and half furlongs.
Barkley and Mach One Rules both got hammered out of the gate with Barkley looking like he took the worst of it but regular rider Javier Matias gathered him in and when turning for home the big white blazed nose was closing on the outside and once again would get past his “arch rival” Mach One Returns but there was no catching Prime Engine in this one. Trainer Howard Belvoir had to be happy how the Star of his Stable responded to the bad start. Mach One Returns with Rocco Bowen also had a good run and should give trainer Frank Lucarelli some options for the rest of the season.
On Sunday another great performance in the feature Invested Prospect burst from her starting gate at the start and never looked back. She blazed the wet-fast track in a blistering time of 1:02.53 as the odds on choice. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez simply had to hang on in this one. Trainer Blaine Wright had her ready to tackle a pretty tough line-up. Citizen Kitty with Eswan Flores rallied from 5th to take 2nd while Perhaps a Pie with apprentice Kevin Orosco held 3rd.
In other news from Sunday, trainer Charles Essex got his 300th Emerald Downs victory with appropriately named Relentless Rain in the opener. And a betting oddity even with short fields it is difficult to get down to 1-5 but Listo was indeed 1-5 with Jose Zunino aboard in the 2nd and he did not disappoint all those backers and Listo returned $2.60 on the $2 win. The early leader for the lowest win pay-out of the year.
Racing resumes on Friday with another 3-day schedule on the way. Make sure to mark your calendars though as we are coming up on Kentucky Derby Saturday, a week from this coming Saturday, May 6 at Churchill Downs.
Links to our You Tube replays and interviews:
Photo Gallery from Saturday