It doesn't get any bigger in the Pacific Northwest than Sunday's 76th running of the Longacres Mile. The historic Emerald Downs race has attracted a full field of 12, but much of the attention will be directed towards the local hero, Noosa Beach. It is a name that may be totally new to the casual fan outside of Seattle, but make no mistake about it, Noosa Beach is much more than the best of the local contingent. Despite having run nearly all of his races at the Suburban Seattle track, he can hold his own against any dirt horse in America. Don't believe me? Just ask Jersey Town.
In the 2010 edition of the Longacres Mile, Noosa Beach easily handled a solid field that included runner-up, Jersey Town. You probably remember what Jersey Town did a few months late when he scored in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in New York. If that is not testament enough to the class of Noosa Beach, just take a look at his recent accomplishments.
A Washington-bred son of the Seeking the Gold sire, Harbor the Gold, the five-year-old gelding became the all-time leading stakes winner at Emerald downs when he took home his eleventh stakes win there in the Mount Rainier Handicap in his last start. Further investigation of his career record begins to tell the impressive story that is Noosa Beach.
Perfect in four starts this year, Noosa Beach has won seven consecutive stakes races and is only one narrow defeat away from being perfect in eleven starts over the past two years. Trained by Doris Harwood for owner and husband, Jeff Harwood, Noosa Beach only was able to win 4 of 9 of his starts at two and three, so his remarkable career record now stands at 20-14-3-2. Content to be the biggest thing in Seattle since Ken Griffey, Jr., 18 of those races have come at Emerald Downs, including 13 wins. With those impressive credentials, it's no wonder that he is the headliner of the Longacres Mile despite the presence of one of the biggest earners in American racing in Awesome Gem.
A win in the Longacres Mile will be anything but easy though. Yesterday's draw unceremoniously placed the two favorites on the far outside. America's road warrior, Awesome Gem, who was a fast finishing 2nd in the 2009 Longacres Mile, drew the #12 position, while Noosa Beach, to be ridden by Gallyn Mitchell, was saddled with the #11 hole. Consider that post-position #11 has only produced 1 winner in 41 chances in this race, and then add in the the fact that Noosa Beach will tote 125 pounds, conceding from three to thirteen pounds to his competition, and you can begin to understand how tough his task will be.
Doris Harwood, trainer of Noosa Beach, took a positive approach to the outside draw.
“We won the race from post No. 5 last year, so it would have been a good omen to get it again,” she said. “Post No. 11 shouldn’t be a problem because he’s got enough speed to get out of there. I’d much rather have on the outside than the inside. He’s a long-striding horse, and the last thing he needs is to get into trouble on the inside.”
While back-to-back victories in the Longacres Mile would be a big deal, only two horses in history have turned the trick, with Simply Majestic being the most recent 22 years ago, the connections of the Seattle superstar have even bigger things in mind for Noosa Beach. If all goes as planned in the next few months, Noosa Beach will finally have the chance to show off his ability to a national audience. The race that will finally lure him away from the Pacific Northwest is the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Churchill Downs in early November. It's not often that a horse from this neck of the woods gets such an opportunity, but as you can tell, Noosa Beach is far from the average Emerald Downs shipper. Come Breeders' Cup time he may well be one of the horses to beat in the one-mile affair.
First things first though ... Sunday's Longacres Mile is a major event with a rich and storied past. Noosa Beach will become one of the most popular horses in Seattle history with another win. A win that I fully expect to see happen.