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Last to first: Stryker Phd roars to win Longacres Mile | Emerald Downs | SLIDESHOW
For the Reporter
Stryker Phd reached the pinnacle of Northwest racing Sunday afternoon, exploding from last place for a half-length victory over Boyett in the 79th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) for 3-year-olds and up at Emerald Downs.
Ridden by Leslie Mawing at 121 pounds, Stryker Phd ran one mile in 1:33.79 – the fifth fastest winning time in 19 runnings at Emerald Downs – and paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.60. Larry Ross is the winning trainer for owners Jim and Mona Hour of Bellevue.
Boyett, a Southern California shipper ridden by Agapito Delgadillo at 117 pounds, held on gamely to finish second and paid $8.80 and $6.
Twistgrips, a 24-to-1 long shot ridden by Amadeo Perez at 115 pounds, flew late to finish third and paid $9.40.
Scat Daddybaby, who blazed through fractions of :22.52, :44.83 and 1:08.42, finished fourth, and was followed by Shooting Jacket, Mr. Bowling, Prohibition, Disruption, Dontmesswithkitten, Jebrica, Mysterious Soul and Title Contender.
A 5-year-old gelding by Bertrando-Striking Scholar, Stryker Phd is the 20th Washington-bred to win the Longacres Mile, and the first since Noosa Beach in 2010. In fact, the top three finishers were all bred in the Northwest – Stryker Phd in Washington, Boyett in Oregon, and Twistgrips in British Columbia.
Stryker Phd was the 6-to-5 betting favorite, entering the race off stakes record performances in the one-mile Budweiser Handicap and 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap. And as usual, the gelding had no early speed, dropping back to last place, 15 lengths behind, as Scat Daddybaby smoked to the lead followed by Disruption, Dontmesswithkitten and Boyett.
Then, in a move that's become his norm, Stryker Phd rallied boldly on the last turn, inhaling foes with a sweeping wide move and reached the fore with a furlong to run. From there, he drifted out a bit, but had plenty left to hold off Boyett.
"We knew there was going to be a lot of speed, so I let him break on his own," Mawing said. "I wanted to be in a comfortable position, but I didn't expect to be in last. We were going nice and easy. When we got to the backside, there were probably still 10 to 12 lengths still in front of me. I knew they were going fast and we were in a good stride, so for sure they were going to come back to me.
"I gave him a few taps at the three-eighths pole and he picked it up really nice. He was picking off horses one by one. I got them about the eighth-pole and we took the lead. I don't know what startled him but he looked at the crowd and heard the crowd and started to slow down. We went from about forty-five miles an hour to about 35 miles an hour in about a second. He kind of concerned me but I had the momentum already."
Stryker Phd is undefeated in three starts this year and Sunday's win, worth $110,000, pushed his 2014 ledger to 3-3-0-0 with earnings of $165,000. Overall, Stryker Phd is 5-4-4 in 16 starts with earnings of $292,751. That total includes a $40,000 check for finishing second to Herbie D in last year's Longacres Mile.
This year, Stryker Phd got the first prize.
"It was a good race," Mawing added. "I have to give all the kudos to the horse. He was working great in the morning. We've been training him to finish strong in the lane and he ran accordingly."
For Mawing, the meet's dominant rider with 80 wins and nine stakes wins, it was his first Mile triumph in seven attempts.
"It's a great feeling to win my first Mile," Mawing said. "I've been here since the opening year and this race has always been eluding me. The best I've run in The Mile before was a fourth, so this is just fantastic."
For Ross, it was the trainer's second Mile win and very similar to his first 29 years ago with Chum Salmon. Like Stryker Phd, Chum Salmon was a 5-year-old gelding when he rallied from last to win the 1985 Longacres Mile.
"It really did remind me of Chum Salmon," Ross said. "More than I expected, but the pace was pretty hot. That's just his style. You're not going to change it."
Hastings shipper El Capone ($14.20) won the $22,575 Pete Pedersen Memorial under Amadeo Perez in 1:35.59 – nearly two seconds slower than Stryker Phd's winning time in the Longacres Mile. ... Mawing and Rocco Bowen rode three winners each on the 11-race card. With 58 of 73 racing days complete, Mawing leads Bowen 81-61 in the jockeys' race. ... In the trainers' standings, Jeff Metz leads Frank Lucarelli 45-34. ... Longacres Mile nominees Rock Me Baby and Handsome Mike finished second and third in Sunday's $250,000 Del Mar Mile (Grade 2) on turf won by Tom's Tribute ($8.20). Obviously, the 2-to-5 betting favorite, finished fourth and caused show prices of $6.40, $13.40 and $29.20. ... Memphis Mobster ($9.60) led gate-to-wire for an easy victory in the Mark Kaufman Memorial Purse named after the great long-time Longacres publicist. ... Wind a Flyin ($3.80) became the horse with four wins at the meet with a gate-to-wire victory under Jorge Rosales in race one. A 4-year-old Blazonry filly, Wind a Flyin is owned by Barbara Schmid and trained by Vince Gibson. ... Reminder: There is no live racing Friday at Emerald Downs. Live racing resumes Saturday with first post 2 p.m. The holiday weekend includes special Monday racing on Labor Day.