What it lacks in quantity, Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Stakes makes up with quality.
In fact, the five-horse field includes the top three finishers in last year’s Longacres Mile – Mach One Rules, Dedicated to You and Barkley – along with 2017 Emerald Downs’ champion 3-year-old Riser and 2016 state and track champion 2-year-old So Lucky.
“It’s a tough race and a good race,” said Frank Lucarelli, who saddles Mach One Rules in the Governor’s. “Hopefully, Mach One Rules can sit off the speed and run by them all in the stretch.”
At six furlongs, the Governor’s is the opening leg of the track’s most glamorous division, a four-race series for older horses culminating with the 83rd running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade 3) on Aug. 12.
It’s also the 11th installment of Barkley vs. Mach One Rules, with 5-year-old Barkley holding a 7-3 advantage over 5-year-old Mach One Rules in head-to-head match ups dating to May 15, 2016.
Barkley is the defending Governor’s champion, winning last year’s renewal by a neck over Mach One Rules in 1:07.92 (92 Beyer). And Barkley prevailed by three-quarters of a length over Mach One Rules in the May 13 allowance prep, running 5½ furlongs in 1:02.94.
“I have a lot of respect for Barkley, and for (trainer) Howard Belvoir,” Lucarelli said. “It’s cool they’ve been going at it like this, because usually you don’t get more than a couple races before horses go their separate ways. But as much as I respect Barkley, it doesn’t mean I like losing to him.”
Mach One Rules is tied for eighth place all-time with six stakes wins at Emerald Downs, and a first or second Sunday would move the pride of R.E.V. Racing over $300,000 in career earnings. Barkley is 8-2-1 in 13 starts with five stakes wins and $219,150 in earnings for Rising Star Stable III.
Chappell Alpine Farms’ Riser was a terror last year at Emerald Downs, compiling a 3-1-0 record in four starts for trainer Blaine Wright. An Ohio-bred by Mizzen Mast, Riser showed versatility while winning gate-to-wire at 5½ furlongs, 6½ furlongs and 1 1/8 miles, with the latter win in the Emerald Downs Derby clinching honors as the track’s top sophomore colt or gelding. Shipped to Kentucky for his first start at age 4, Riser led through a half-mile in :44.81 before finishing eighth in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (Grade 3) at five furlongs.
Lightly raced Dedicated to You makes his first start as a 6-year-old for owner/breeder Coal Creek Farm and trainer David Martinez. A Washington-bred by Purim, Dedicated to You has fired some big shots in a 13-race career, including a third at 82-1 in last year’s Mile and a second at 24-1 in the 2016 Mt. Rainier Handicap.
So Lucky, co-owned by Pegasus Too and Rising Star Stable and trained by Belvoir, figures to contend with Riser for the early lead. A 4-year-old Washington-bred by Coast Guard, So Lucky is 4-2-2 in eight career starts with $120,135 in earnings. He finished third to Barkley and Mach One Rules in the May 13 allowance, his first start in a calendar year.
• Juan Hernandez comes up from California to ride Riser for Blaine Wright and Chappell Alpine Farms. Currently fourth at Golden Gate, Hernandez is 1 for 1 in stakes at Emerald Downs, riding City by the Baby to a victory in the 2014 Seattle Handicap for trainer Billy Morey.
• Wright’s record in stakes the last two seasons at Emerald Downs: 34-12-6-4-$444,445.
• Trainer Howard Belvoir has a record five wins in the Governor’s: Red Eye Express, 1974; Wasserman, 2007 and 2008; Assessment, 2010; Barkley, 2017.
• Noosa Beach in 2011 is the last favorite to win the Governor’s, a stretch that includes an $81.40 stunner by Fleet Eagle in 2015 and a $59.80 upset by Why Not Be Perfect in 2014; Barkley paid $9.40 to win in 2017.
• The older horse division also features the $50,000 Budweiser Stakes at 6½ furlongs on June 24, $50,000 Mt. Rainier Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on July 15, and Longacres Mile.
The field for Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Stakes, 3-year-old colts & up, six furlongs, Race 6, 4:35 pm: 1-Dedicated to You, Rocco Bowen, 118 pounds; 2-Barkley, Javier Matias, 118; 3-Riser, Juan Hernandez, 118; 4-Mach One Rules, Kevin Orozco, 122; 5-So Lucky, Jennifer Whitaker, 118.
Racing this week
• Friday, June 1
6:30 p.m. (7 races)
$0.20 Jackpot Pick 7 carryover: $13,146
• Saturday, June 2
2 p.m. (8 races)
• Sunday, June 3
2 p.m. (9 races)
$50,000 Governor’s Stakes (3&up, 6f)
3-Rick Kessler or Terra Firma Farm
3-Randall and Rossi or Lucarelli Racing
2-12 tied with 2
3-Rojo Bou Peep
2-Mitch and John E
2-No Talking Back
2-Bet the Harbor
2-Fernet Me Not
Sunday’s nine-race card includes the first two races of the season for 2-year-olds. Race 3, an $18,500 maiden special weight for fillies, drew a field of seven including Lady Campbell, younger sister of 2016 Washington Oaks winner Princess Kennedy, and Profound Legacy, younger sister of multiple graded stakes winner Believe You Can. Race 5 is an $18,500 maiden special weight and also drew a field of seven. … Argosy Fleet, owned by Peter Redekop and trained by Blaine Wright, is 3-1 in Sunday’s $50,000 River Rock Casino Handicap for 3-year-olds at Hastings Racecourse. A $250,000 Mineshaft colt, Argosy Fleet worked five furlongs in 1:00 last Sunday at Emerald Downs. … Saturday simulcasts include the $400,000 Beholder Mile (Grade 1) from Santa Anita featuring Unique Bella (3-5) and Paradise Woods (2-1)…Nominations close Saturday for the $50,000 Kent Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at 6½ furlongs on Sunday, June 10. … The fourth annual Indian Relay Racing weekend returns to Emerald Downs June 8, 9 and 10.