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Eliska Kubinova back for another season at Emerald Downs
A lot has happened to Eliska Kubinova since she notched her first North American victory at Emerald Downs in September 2011.
Back then she was an unfamiliar apprentice with a hard-to-pronounce name. But like Seattle weather, things can change in a snap, and in only 1-½ years the 24-year-old blonde has evolved from a natural riding talent to a force in the saddle.
Now, she returns to Emerald Downs seasoned from a winter riding spell on the Southern California circuit, that included some shining moments against some of the world’s toughest competition. In her first start at Hollywood Park, Kubinova guided Valeria to a 2-¾-length maiden triumph for trainer John Sherriffs and owners Jerry and Ann Moss*the same connections of 2011 Horse of the Year Zenyatta. Kubinova said the win really summed up her time in down south.
“It was so beautiful down there,” she said. “Everybody was so nice to me. The other jockeys helped me out and gave me a lot of tips. I think it made me a better jockey.”
That could be a scary thought for her upcoming rivals at Emerald Downs, where in 2012 she rattled off 75 Thoroughbred victories and set a track record for most wins by an apprentice. All without riding the last week of the season to get a head start in California.
This go around, however, could prove more difficult for the soft-spoken rider as her apprenticeship expired last fall. Gone are both the weight allowance and her jockey’s agent, as David Singer already has his book full with familiar faces Leonel Camacho-Flores, Debbie Hoonan and J. Luis Torres.
Kubinova, who hopes to have a new agent within a few days, composes one element of the deepest core of female jockeys found anywhere. As many as seven women jockeys could take mounts opening weekend, led by Jennifer Whitaker and Debbie Hoonan, who rank No. 8 and No. 9 on the track’s all-time wins list with 410 and 407 wins respectively. Anne Sanguinetti, Connie Doll, newcomer apprentice Maggie Hardison and Cassie Papineau also are planning to ride here. In 2009, Papineau set the single-season apprentice mark of 70 wins that Kubinova broke last year.
Juan Gutierrez, last year’s champion rider with 117 wins, is gearing up to defend his 2012 riding title, but 2011 champion Leslie Mawing is expected to miss the season with a shoulder injury. Other newcomers include Isaias Enriquez, David Lopez, Kyle Branch, Ronald Richard and apprentice Ricardo Gonzalez.
All-time leading rider Gallyn Mitchell begins the meet with 1,347 victories at Emerald Downs, while Javier Matias and Jose Zunino are both back for another go-round, and Matt Hagerty, A.L. Gutierrez and Bryson Endres are expected back after not riding here last year.
HORSE TOTAL UP FROM LAST YEAR
Director of Racing Bret Anderson reports a total of 814 horses currently stabled at Emerald Downs*up from 771 on the same date last year.
Anderson added the total figures to increase in coming weeks with the annual influx from Turf Paradise, including 30 horses for trainer Jeff Metz, 25 for Joe Toye and eight for H.R. Gibson, while Frank Lucarelli, Robbie Baze and Dave Bennett will fortify their Emerald Downs stable with runners from Phoenix. And Marcie Riley, who has trained in Canada, Montana and Idaho, is expected this season with 15 horses.
Anderson also said the entry schedule has changed from last year. Friday entries will be taken Sundays, Saturday entries will be drawn Wednesdays, and Sunday entries will be taken Thursdays. Entries for opening night, Friday, April 19, will be drawn Tuesday, April 16.
The opening night feature as listed in Condition Book #1 is a $15,850 purse for $25,000 claimers, 3-year-olds and up, at 5-½ furlongs. Once again the first stakes event is the $50,000 Hastings Handicap for older fillies and mares on Sunday, May 12 with nominations closing Saturday, May 4.
NOTES: Owner Keith Swagerty has 12 horses in training with David Martinez including six 2-year-olds and the multiple stakes-winning 3-year-old Mike Man’s Gold, who figures to be one of this year’s leading sophomores, a group that features Music of My Soul, Finallygotabentley and Country Rules. . Among the Swagerty 2-year-olds is the filly Chedoodle Jan, by 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone out of the mare*Chedoodle*that has produced six stakes wins for Swagerty at Emerald Downs. . . While Kubinova set the track apprentice record with 75 Thoroughbred wins, Whitaker and Hoonan continued their battle for supremacy as the track’s all-time leading female jockey. Whitaker enters 2013 with a slim 410-407 edge over Hoonan, and both rank among the track’s top-10 all-time, with Whitaker No. 8 and Hoonan No. 9. . .The horse that gave Kubinova her record 71st win last year, Fist Full of Green, worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 Thursday for trainer Roy Lumm. A 4-year-old Bertrando gelding, Fist Full of Green was one of 55 horses on the Thursday worktab, a list that included five 2-year-olds and the first seven-furlong work of the season, Tahoe’s Prize, timed in 1:28 4/5 for Robbie Baze. . .2012 Longacres Mile runner-up Winning Machine has worked six times and had his farthest drill to date Thursday, six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 for two-time defending training champion Frank Lucarelli. . .Winning Machine is 8-7-4 in 28 starts with earnings of $292,053 at EmD. The 7-year-old Toccet gelding is tied with Assessment and Makors Finale for third in most EmD stakes wins by an active horse, at four apiece. Noosa Beach, the track’s all-time leader with 11 stakes wins, is in training with Doris Harwood but the 7-year-old gelding has yet to have an official workout this year. “He’s looking good on the track, we’ve put a lot of miles on him,” Harwood said. “We haven’t breezed him yet, but we will once he tells us he’s ready. We’re optimistic about running him this year.” Wasserman, second amongst active runners with six stakes wins, had his first six-furlong work of the year Thursday for owner-trainer Howard Belvoir, breezing six furlongs in 1:13 1/5 under Whitaker. The 11-year-old gelding is 12-12-12 in 63 starts at EmD and still ranks first in earnings with $560,458. Wasserman’s career debut was May 27, 2005, a 6-½ length victory at 17-to-1 with Whitaker riding*Another of the track’s grizzled veterans, Olympic Lights, worked four furlongs in :49 1/5 Thursday for current trainer Blaine Wright. The 9-year-old Washington-bred gelding begins 2013 as the track’s active leader in wins with 14, followed by Noosa Beach and Chickasaw Park with 13 apiece, and Wasserman and Touch of Elegance at 12 wins each. . .Valerie Gibson is training a small string of runners this year, and to avoid a conflict her husband Mark Gibson will be excused from duties as official starter whenever his wife runs a horse. . .Emerald Downs will honor retired Thoroughbreds throughout the 2013 meeting with Thoroughbreds After the Finish Line, featuring former runners that have transitioned into new roles like hunt, dressage and pleasure riding. A different horse will be featured each week in the official program and on emeralddowns.com. . .The 2013 Emerald Downs media guide is available free online at emeralddowns.com. . .Former jockey Hugh Wales has started a new career as an agent plans to represent Jose Zunino and perhaps two other riders at the 2013 meet.