Already a triple stakes winner, Exclusive Diva could be poised for another big year at Emerald Downs in 2013.
Ridden by Juan Gutierrez, the classy Kentucky-bred edged E Z Kitty by a neck in Sunday’s $21,000 allowance feature for fillies and mares.
The victory capped a big day for Gutierrez, as earlier he became only the second rider with to win 1,000 races at Emerald Downs. The milestone occurred in race two, as Gutierrez guided Ankeny Hill ($10) to a 3-¾-length victory and joined Gallyn Mitchell (1,347) as jockeys with 1,000 wins in the track’s 18-year history.
Gutierrez captured his first Emerald Downs riding title in 2012 and has finished in the top five every year since 2001.
“Thanks to God, everything is possible,” said Gutierrez, a 43-year-old native of Mexico. “I’ve always had good support from my family, and my agent (Keith Drebin) makes some good decisions.”
Six of Gutierrez’ wins have come aboard Exclusive Diva, winner of both the 2012 Irish Day Handicap and Seattle Handicap, and runner-up to Champagneandcaviar for Top 3-Year-Old Filly.
Sunday, Exclusive Diva ranged up inside of E Z Kitty early, and the two horses pretty much match-raced to the wire. E Z Kitty led by a head after a half-mile in :44.41, but Exclusive Diva gained a short lead into the stretch and proved best in perhaps the season’s most exciting race to date. Exclusive Diva ran 5 ½ furlongs in 1:01.52 and paid $5.20, $2.20 and $2.20.
Trained by Tom Wenzel and Owned by Northwest Farms and Debbie Paxton, Exclusive Diva is 6-2-1 in nine starts with earnings of $147,071, including $11,550 for Sunday’s triumph. The race was designed as a prep for the $50,000 Hastings Handicap on Sunday, May 12.
“This filly’s a dynamo, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know how I ever get her beat,” Wenzel joked.
E Z Kitty, the 4-to-5 betting favorite ridden by Anne Sanguinetti, was easily second best, as the top two finishers drew 8-¼ lengths clear of the field. Winner of three stakes this winter/spring at Turf Paradise, EZ Kitty paid $2.10 and $2.10.
You Me and Ema B, ridden by Debbie Hoonan, finished well for third place and paid $2.80. It was the first start in 20 months for the Track’s Top Older Filly or Mare of 2011.
Carrabelle Harbor and Smokin’ Grey completed the order of finish.
In the $18,900 sub-feature for 3-year-olds, Herman Sarkowsky’s Forin Sea made a looping move to the lead and drew clear for a one-length victory over Finallygotabentley in 1:02.51 for 5-½ furlongs. A 3-year-old Kentucky-bred by Brother Derek, Forin Sea showed good promise as a 2-year-old, winning a maiden special weight by 8 ½ lengths, and the Harwood barn appears to have two of the track’s top sophomores with Forin Sea and 2012 Gottstein Futurity winner Music of My Soul.
Gutierrez is off to a blazing start with two wins Friday and Saturday, and three on Sunday. With the first of 24 weeks in the books, Gutierrez owns a 7-3 lead over David G. Lopez and Anne Sanguinetti.
His 1,000th Emerald Downs victory was accomplished on Ankeny Hill, a first-time starter trained by Chris Stenslie and owned and bred by Dr. Rodney Orr. Stenslie, with a six-for-14 week, and Orr, who went three-for-three, lead the trainer and owner standings.
NOTES: After a career-high four wins Saturday, Stenslie had two more wins Sunday and tied the record for most wins by a trainer in opening week with six. Stenslie scored with Ankeny Hill in race two and the always-tough Roarified in race three. A 5-year-old mare, Roarified has won six of her last eight and is 8-0-0 in 12 career starts. Roarified was claimed Sunday for $5,000 by Michael Pollowitz and Jeff Wilson, and will now be trained by Doris Harwood*10-year-old gelding Fighting City Hall paid a mammoth $93.40 to win in race five, exceeding last year’s highest $2 win pay of $83.40 set by Like Nobody Else. Immigration, runner-up in race five, now has 17 career second place finishes*J. Luis Torres rode two winners including the 45-to-1 stunner on Fighting City Hall*Live racing resumes Friday with first post 6:45 p.m. The Quarter Chute Café is open for simulcast wagering every Monday and Tuesday.