Winning Machine wins the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap | Emerald Downs

Winning Machine and jockey Javier Matias scored a $25.60 surprise in the $50,000 Governor
Winning Machine and jockey Javier Matias scored a $25.60 surprise in the $50,000 Governor's Handicap at Emerald Downs. May 20, 2012
— image credit: Photo courtesy Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs

Winning Machine ruined the 2012 debut of two-time Horse of the Meeting Noosa Beach in Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Handicap at Emerald Downs.

In living up to his name, Winning Machine tied the stakes record while defeating Jebrica by 1-¾ lengths in 1:13.97 for 6-½ furlongs. With Javier Matias aboard at 118 lbs., Winning Machine paid $25.60, $11.40 and $12.

Jebrica, with William Antongeorgi riding at 118 lbs, rallied from last to finish second and paid $7.60 and $9.40.

It was a half-length back to third-place finisher Hollywood Harbor, ridden by Jose Zunino at 118 lbs, and a $3.20 show payoff.

Noosa Beach, carrying high-weight of 122 lbs, finished another head back in fourth place, while Couldabenthewhisky was fifth. For Noosa Beach, it was the 6-year-old gelding’s first race since a runner-up finish to Awesome Gem in the Longacres Mile on Aug. 21.

Noosa Beach was the 9-to-10 betting favorite with Hollywood Harbor, coming off a world record performance at 5-½ furlongs, a close second choice at 1-to-1.

The complexion of the race changed at the break, however, as Hollywood Harbor hopped at the break, a development that probably favored Winning Machine on Sunday.

Hollywood Harbor rushed up inside to take a head lead over Winning Machine after a quarter-mile in :22.43, but Winning Machine quickly reestablished command and was leading by one length after a half-mile in :44.10, and by 2-½ lengths after six furlongs in 1:07.67.

“The plan was to sit behind the leaders but nobody sent their horses, so I changed my plans and said ‘let’s go,’ Matias said. “When we reached the quarter-pole, I thought ‘man, I might win this thing.’ I knew he had a lot more left in him. He has so much heart for being such a little man of a horse.”

A 6-year-old Kentucky-bred gelding by Toccet, Winning Machine had finished ahead of Noosa Beach in only two of 13 previous meetings, and both of those were in 2009 when Winning Machine was Emerald Downs’ Top 3-Year-Old.

“He’s a good horse and has had some good races, but he’s had some tough beats over the years too,” said Winning Machine’s trainer, Frank Lucarelli, now fifth all-time with 28 stakes wins at Emerald Downs.

Owned by Fleur De Lis Stables (Raymond Kwik and Paul Goldberg), Winning Machine has compiled an overall record of 8-7-3 in 28 starts with earnings of $390,278, including $27,500 for the Governor’s.

Jose Zunino, regular rider on Hollywood Harbor, said Hollywood Harbor was uncharacteristically anxious in the post parade.

“He was a little nervous today,” Zunino said. “He’s never been like that with me before. He got a little excited in the gate and did not break good at all. I’m not disappointed with his run. He tried the entire way. If he broke well, the race would’ve been different. He ran against the best horses on the track, and I’m happy with how he tried.”

Leslie Mawing, the new rider on Noosa Beach, said the track’s all-time leader in stakes wins, struggled a bit to change leads, and then was caught outside a drifting Hollywood Harbor in the stretch.

“I knew there was a quick pace up front,” Mawing said. “At the five-sixteenths pole, I had to ask him quite a bit. He wouldn’t change leads for me until I tapped him with the left-handed stick. By the time he switched leads, (Hollywood Harbor) was drifting out pretty wide and taking us with him. I was stuck in a pretty bad spot. (Noosa Beach) was moving pretty fast in the stretch, but we were losing too much ground.”

Noosa Beach earned $3,750 for finishing fourth, moving his career record to 22-14-4-2-$524,472.

NOTES: Sunday’s sixth race*the Larry Pierce Anniversary Purse*was one of the best races of the meeting as Rainier Missile ($7.80) prevailed by a nose in 1:09.07 for six furlongs, while Newfound Gold and Newfound Man dead-heated for second place and Kooky Saluki was another head back in fourth*In the same race, Wasserman, the track’s all-time leading earner with $564,933, finished sixth in his first start as a 10-year-old*2011 John & Kitty Fletcher Stakes winner E Z Kitty ($16) came off an eight-month break to score a front-running victory in Sunday’s second race for optional claiming older fillies and mares. Now 5-for-8 in his career, E Z Kitty ran 5-½ furlongs in 1:02.38, with Leonel Camacho-Flores riding for trainer H R Gibson*The track was labeled wet-fast throughout the card*$2 win payoffs soared into double digits in 14 of 20 races Saturday and Sunday, including 8-of-11 on Sunday* As a result, there were no tickets with five winners in the $0.50 Pick 5, and a double carryover of $21,054 is up for grabs Friday*The speedy 4-year-old gelding Hayjax ($18.20) accounted for one of the aforementioned payouts in the $20,000 ninth race, as the Tim McCanna trainee tow-roped a good field of allowance-optional claimers in 1:08.70 for six furlongs*Howard Belvoir saddled the late daily double of Just Have’n Fun ($13.80) and Port Wakefield ($22) and leap fogged to a 13-12 lead over Frank Lucarelli in the trainers’ standings*Jennifer Whitaker was up for both Belvoir wins and joined Juan Gutierrez and William Antongeorgi as riders with two wins Sunday*After six weeks and 18 racing days, there is a triple dead-heat atop the riders’ standings between Gutierrez, Joe Crispin and Eliska Kubinova, all with 18 wins*Kubinova took off her final three mounts Sunday due to illness*Live racing resumes Friday with first post at 6 p.m.

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