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Governor's Handicap matches Harbor the Gold against Noosa Beach | Emerald Downs

As it should, the much-anticipated face-off between Harbor the Gold geldings Noosa Beach and Hollywood Harbor has dominated the newswire leading up to Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Handicap for older horses.

The 6-½-furlong Governor’s Handicap*the eighth race on an 11-race card*is the first stop and only sprint stakes for older horses en route to the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) on Aug. 19.

For the past two years, Jeff Harwood’s Noosa Beach has controlled the handicap division at Emerald Downs. 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 off since finishing second 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 has a few angles that might help dethrone the defending champ. First and foremost, the 2009 Top 3-Year-Old holds a fitness edge over Noosa Beach, after running the world’s fastest 5-½ furlongs in 1:00.87 in an April 22 allowance race. Second, Noosa Beach has lost this race once before. In fact, his second-place effort to Assessment in the 2010 Governor’s Handicap is his only loss to a local horse since Sept. 2009. 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.”

Another possibility to overthrow Noosa Beach is 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 field for the 73rd running of the Governor’s Handicap: Hollywood Harbor, Jose Zunino, 118 lbs; Winning Machine, Javier Matias, 116; Couldabenthewhisky, Gallyn Mitchell, 117; Noosa Beach, Leslie Mawing, 122; Jebrica, William Antongeorgi, 118.

PREAKNESS STAKES SIMULCAST ON SATURDAY

Saturday’s 137th running of the Preakness Stakes from Baltimore will go as Race 12 on the Pimlico card. Post time for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown is 3:18 p.m. (PDT).

Advance wagering on the entire 13-race Preakness card will be available Friday, including a $1 Daily Double on Friday’s Pimlico Special and the Preakness.

Post time for Saturday’s first race from Pimlico is 7:30 a.m. The Quarter Chute Café will simulcast the entire card, and Emerald Downs’ gates will open at 9 a.m.

WASSERMAN RETURNS SUNDAY IN SIXTH RACE

Although the return of Noosa Beach will garner most of the headlines, the track’s all-time leading earner also returns Sunday as Wasserman makes his first start of 2012. The now 10-year-old gelding is among nine horses entered for a $25,000/$22,500 claiming price in the sixth race at six furlongs.

“He feels great, he thinks he’s a 2-year-old some days,” said Wasserman’s regular rider Jennifer Whitaker. “He’s ready, he’s still very playful, but he’s professional.”

A Washington-bred by Cahill Road, Wasserman has complied an 11-13-10 record in 65 career starts with earnings of $564,808. The 2008 Longacres Mile winner has earned $540,741 at Emerald Downs.

Wasserman could be in tough Sunday, however. Advancement, Kooky Saluki and Rainier Missile are all recent winners, while Emancipated has finished second and third in a pair of starts versus Wasserman’s sharp stablemate Cat On Base. The race also includes 2011 Longaces Mile consolation winner Davos, the exceptionally fast Newfound Gold and 2010 Seattle Slew Handicap winner Newfound Man.

Sunday’s ninth race is another barn burner. A $40,000 optional claimer at six furlongs with a $20,000 purse, the race features the aforementioned Cat On Base, 2011 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic winner He’s All Heart and Noosa Beach’s stablemate Aaron the Baron, who finished second to Hollywood Harbor last month.

CHAMPION ZENOVIT RETIRED TO BE A MAMA

Trainer Larry Ross has announced that Zenovit, Champion 3-Year-Old Filly of 2010, has retired and was bred to stallion Tribal Rule for breeders Ron and Nina Hagen of El Dorado Farms.

“She retired sound and healthy,” said Ross who trained Zenovit for owners Gerald and Gail Schneider of Riverbend Farm. “We just could never really get her back to her 3-year-old form. Some fillies will do that.”

A Washington-bred by Private Gold, Zenovit peaked during her sophomore season at Emerald Downs, where she won the Washington Oaks by 2-¼ lengths and finished second and third in the John & Kitty Fletcher Stakes and the Irish Day Handicap, respectively. Sent to Hastings Racecourse in late September that year, Zenovit finished her campaign with a 1-¼-length triumph in the BC Oaks. She was the first horse to sweep the Oaks since the Ross-trained Ever Lasting won both races in 1996.

“Zenovit was one of the better fillies I had,” Ross said. “Now we’ll see how she does as a broodmare.”

NOTES: Week 5 honors: Jockey-Juan Gutierrez (13-4-2-5); Trainer-Tim Harder (2-1-1-0; season 4-3-1-0); Owner-Allaire Farms & Dave Bowman (2-2-0-0); Groom-Maryellen Silva (Class Included)
Class Included earned an 81 Beyer for her head victory over Elusive Noise in the Hastings Handicap, slightly higher than the 77 she got for an allowance victory April 21*With 42 stakes wins at Emerald Downs, Jim Penney, trainer of Class Included, is one stakes win away from tying Bud Klokstad on the track’s all-time list*Gallant Son, third in the San Francisco Mile (G3) at Golden Gate, will make his next start May 26 in the $150,000 American Handicap (G2) on the turf at Hollywood Park, according to trainer Frank Lucarelli. Lucarelli, tied with Howard Belvoir for first at Emerald Downs with 11 wins apiece, also said Stormy Lucy will take her three-race winning streak to Hollywood Park for the June 9 Honeymoon Handicap (G2) for 3-year-old fillies at 1-1/8 miles on turf*Speaking of Lucarelli, his 6-year-old mare Seattle Game earned a career-high 79 Beyer for her 5-¾ length victory Saturday in 1:09.57 for six furlongs. Owned by Roy Schaefer (R.E.V. Racing), Seattle Game has won for $2,500 and $5,000 claiming since shipping in from Turf Paradise, and is one of 11 multiple winners at Emerald Downs in 2012*Trainer Blaine Wright will fly to Northern California on Thursday night to watch San Francisco Mile winner Hudson Landing breeze Saturday morning at Golden Gate. Wright said Hudson Landing’s next race will be on May 28 in the $100,000 Berkeley Stakes (G3)*Youtheprizeandi, winner of the 2011 Knights Choice Stakes at Emerald Downs, is entered in a $30,000 allowance/optional claiming race Saturday at Golden Gate Fields*Evelyn’s Dancer was nominated to last weekend’s Hastings Handicap, but instead stays home to face her own division Saturday in the $50,000 Ross McLeod Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Hastings Racecourse* Sunday’s sixth race at Emerald Downs will honor Larry Pierce on the 40-year anniversary of his record seven-win day at Longacres, May 20, 1972, when Pierce won with seven of his eight mounts.

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