Enumclaw trainer Frank Lucarelli's Winning Machine heads field for $50,000 Governor’s Handicap |

Winning Machine and jockey Javier Matias attempt a title defense Sunday in the $50,000 Governor
Winning Machine and jockey Javier Matias attempt a title defense Sunday in the $50,000 Governor's Handicap for 3-year-olds and up at Emerald Downs.
— image credit: Photo coutesy Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs

Frank Lucarelli has won 724 races and 29 stakes in 18 seasons at Emerald Downs, but the veteran trainer says Winning Machine is unique.

“(Winning Machine) is an amazing horse,” Lucarelli said. “He can run short, long, you name it*he even ran a mile and three-eighths in Canada. The thing is, he always runs a big race.”

Sunday, the 7-year-old gelding begins another quest for the track’s Holy Grail as the road to the Longacres Mile begins with the $50,000 Governor’s Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs. The defending champion, Winning Machine drew the No. 6 post-position in a field of eight, with regular rider Javier Matias getting the mount at 120 lbs.

A Kentucky-bred by Toccet-Dance With Carson, Winning Machine is 9-9-4 in a 33-race career with earnings of $468,988 for owner-breeder Fleur De Lis Stables. A three-time champion and four-time stakes winner at Emerald Downs, Winning Machine was voted Top 3-Year-Old Male in 2009 and Top Sprinter and Top Handicap Horse in 2012, when he came within a head of winning the Longacres Mile.

In last year’s Governor’s, Winning Machine came from slightly off the pace to topple Jebrica, world-record holder Hollywood Harbor and two-time Horse of the Meeting Noosa Beach in a stakes record-tying 1:13.97. In last month’s prep for this year’s Governor’s, Winning Machine was bogged down in traffic but managed to rally for second in a $21,000 allowance race won by Makors Finale in 1:02.71 for 5 ½ furlongs.

“He’s doing really good, he worked well (five furlongs in 1:00 2/5) for the race,” Lucarelli said of Winning Machine. “He’s a happy horse.”

· Makors Finale, high-weight at 122 lbs, is out of the Governor’s with a minor ailment. Trainer Tom Wenzel said he hopes to have the 4-year-old Washington-bred gelding back in action for the $50,000 Budweiser Handicap on Sunday, June 16.

· With Makors Finale out, Why Not Be Perfect is the starting high-weight at 121 lbs and trainer Jeff Metz said a major factor is getting the 6-year-old horse switched from turf back to dirt. "In the mornings, we've been trying to get him used to having dirt in his face,” Metz said. “He's been working really easy, going :58 and change without pressure.”

· The loss of Makors Finale, a front-runner, also figures to affect the early pace on Sunday and could make Winning Machine tough on or near the front. However, Metz said Why Not Be Perfect is tractable and that jockey Anne Sanguinetti could be close early. “We don't expect *Why Not Be Perfect) him to have the lead, but if they go slow enough up front, he can take it,” Metz said. “I just told Anne to play the break and see what happens."

· Aaron Gryder, the leading rider at Hastings Racecourse, has the mount on Hoist for trainer Mike Puhich and owner North American Thoroughbred Company. Winner of 2,992 career races, Gryder’s only previous ride at Emerald Downs was a third on Tropic Storm in the 2008 Longacres Mile.

· The Governor’s Handicap goes as race nine at 6:09 p.m.

The field from the rail out for Sunday’s $50,000 Governor’s Handicap: Kooky Saluki, Juan Gutierrez, 115 lbs; Stryker Phd, Debbie Hoonan, 113; Hoist, Aaron Gryder, 118; Edge Forward, Isaias Enriquez, 115; Why Not Be Perfect, Anne Sanguinetti, 121; Winning Machine, Javier Matias, 120; D’honorable One, David G. Lopez, 117; Assessment, Jennifer Whitaker, 116.

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