24 hours after racing gained a new hero in I'll Have Another, and a new great rivalry in him and Bodemeister, Emerald Downs will hold a little showdown of their own, as a pair of talented Harbor the Gold geldings, Noosa Beach and Hollywood Harbor, are set to vie for the title of King of the Pacific Northwest in today’s $50,000 Governor’s Handicap. The 6-½-furlong Governor’s Handicap is the first stop, and only sprint stakes for older horses en route to the track's showcase event, the $200,000 Longacres Mile on August 19. Many racing fans are already familiar with the quality of Jeff Harwood’s Noosa Beach. He has controlled the handicap division at Emerald Downs with an iron hoof the past few years. The two-time defending Horse of the Meeting is the track’s all-time leader in stakes wins and has nine victories in his last 11 stakes appearances. The now 6-year-old Noosa Beach has been away since a valiant 2nd place finish to Awesome Gem in the 2011 Longacres Mile, but trainer Doris Harwood said she’s confident he’ll be ready to roll come Sunday.
“He’s been training great in the mornings and coming back wild,” she said. “I don’t need to say too much, I’ll let his racing do all the talking.”
Although Noosa Beach will likely be favored in the Governor’s, Hollywood Harbor cannot be taken lightly. Unlike Noosa Beach, he comes into today's race with fantastic recent form, including running the world’s fastest 5-½ furlongs, when he threw down a 1:00.87 in an April 22 allowance race. And keep in mind, this is also a race that Noosa Beach has lost once before. In fact, his second-place effort to Assessment in the 2010 Governor’s Handicap is his only loss to a local horse for nearly three years. Still, trainer Chris Stenslie said she knows full well that Noosa Beach remains the horse to beat.
“Noosa Beach is a really nice horse,” said Stenslie, also part owner of Hollywood Harbor with Jody Peetz of One Horse Will Do Corp. “Until somebody beats him, he’s the top horse. Hopefully, (Hollywood Harbor) can be the one to do it.”
Hoping to overturn the Washington-State apple cart of the two favorites will be Jebrica, whose 2-¾-length victory in the 2011 Emerald Derby earned him the meet’s highest Beyer Speed Figure of 98 and Top 3-Year-Old honors. The victory also gave owners Ron and Rosalie Warren their first ever stakes win. A 4-year-old out of 2011 Top Broodmare Peaceful Wings, Jebrica continued his red-hot campaign last year at Hastings Racecourse, where he finished second in the BC Derby (G3) and then won the 1-3/8-mile BC Premier Handicap over stakes-winning older horses Winning Machine and Assessment. Now, Jebrica makes his 2012 debut at Emerald Downs, where Hall of Fame conditioner Jim Penney said the Liberty Gold gelding has been training well for Sunday’s race.
“He’s training pretty good right now,” Penney said. “He’s a little more mature this year than he was last year.”
According to the work tab, Jebrica has trained better than good. On Monday, the 4-year-old gelding breezed six furlongs in 1:10 1/5, which was faster than a half-dozen six-furlong races the day before. Only his stablemate Class Included went quicker when she won the Hastings Handicap for older fillies in 1:09.17, but under a stiff drive.
The entire field for the 73rd running of the Governor’s Handicap looks like this: Hollywood Harbor, Jose Zunino, 118 lbs; Winning Machine, Javier Matias, 116; Couldabenthewhisky, Gallyn Mitchell, 117; Noosa Beach, Leslie Mawing, 122; Jebrica, William Antongeorgi, 118.
It may not be I'll Have Another and Bodemeister, but if your looking for some of the fastest older horses in the nation, look no further than Emerald Downs today. the fur should definitely fly!