A force in the saddle yet composed under pressure, jockey Javier Matias knows how to play hardball when the big money’s on the line.
A 41-year-old Mexico City native, Matias will show off his riding prowess Sunday when he climbs aboard Winning Machine in the $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap for older horses.
The 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier serves as the handicap division’s final local prep for the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) on Sunday, August 18. Last year, Winning Machine finished a close third in the Mt. Rainier before dropping a heartbreaker to Taylor Said in The Mile.
Matias has been a steady stakes performer the past two seasons at Emerald Downs, and seems a perfect match for the diminutive but rugged Winning Machine. Matias tied Juan Gutierrez in 2012 for most stakes wins at seven apiece, and added another stakes win last weekend aboard 18-to-1 Mike Man’s Gold in the Seattle Slew handicap for 3-year-olds.
For Matias, it’s all about staying poised and riding smart.
“I’ve ridden in a lot of stakes races in my life, so I really don’t get nervous anymore,” he said. “I try to win every race, and I try to ride hard every race.”
On Sunday, Matias rides the 7-year-old gelding Winning Machine, who looks to break through with his first win in 2013. Last season, the pair combined for two big wins*the Governor’s Handicap and Budweiser Handicap*and nearly pulled off the biggest win of them all, finishing second by a head to Canadian import Taylor Said in the Longacres Mile.
Nursed through relatively soft fractions on the lead, Winning Machine and Matias dug in bravely and went toe-to-toe through the lane with Taylor Said and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez.
“He ran so big, I was so happy with how he ran,” Matias said. “(Taylor Said) passed us easily, but my horse came right back. I don’t think we ever got the lead back, but he dug in the whole way.”
Winning Machine’s stellar campaign also resulted in Top Older Horse and Top Sprinter honors at Emerald Downs. This season, however, has been a bit up-and-down, including a rare last-place clunker in the May 19 Governor’s Handicap. The Kentucky-bred son of Toccet bounced back with a strong third-place effort in the one-mile Budweiser Handicap. After pressing a swift half-mile set by Makors Finale, Winning Machine took the lead into deep stretch before getting collared late by closers Jebrica and Stryker Phd.
Since the Budweiser, Matias has been on Winning Machine several times and said the gelding has been acting like his usual self.
“I worked him on Monday and he really worked well,” Matias said. “I think he’s feeling pretty good right now. I can’t wait for him to show that he’s back.”
· The starting high weight at 122 lbs, Tres Borrachos (47-5-6-7-$1,029,723) is the richest horse to run at Emerald Downs this year. Winner of the 2008 Swaps Stakes (G2) at 11-to-1 and winner of the 2011 San Diego Handicap at 8-to-1, Tres Borrachos is listed as trained by Mike Puhich, although Marty Jones has trained the gelding the last two years after Beau Greely was the trainer from 2007-10. Tres Borrachos also was runner-up to Rail Trip in the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and third to Caleb’s Posse and Shackleford in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1). Getting acclimated to Emerald Downs, Tres Borrachos breezed five furlongsMonday in 1:01.
· David Flores, who knows a thing or two about 8-year-old geldings*he rode Awesome Gem to a victory over Noosa Beach in the 2011 Longacres Mile*has the mount aboard Tres Borrachos. Just back from a riding vacation in Singapore, Flores has had great success at Emerald Downs with a 2-1-1 mark in six mounts and earnings of $276,120. Flores, who also won the 1996 Mile aboard Isitingood, is one of five jockeys with two Longacres Mile wins at Emerald Downs.
· Herbie D, the champion sprinter in British Columbia in 2012, ships in with a glossy 8-1-1 record in 11 starts for trainer Robert Gilker, and $200,428 in earnings for owner/breeder George Robbins. Amadeo Perez, the 2012 riding champion at Hastings Racecourse, makes his Emerald Downs debut aboard Herbie D.
· The Mt. Rainier Handicap is race nine at 6:09 p.m.
The field from the rail out for the 18th running of the Mt. Rainier Handicap: Herbie D, Amadeo Perez, 120 lbs; Jebrica, Isaias Enriquez, 119; Winning Machine, Javier Matias, 118; Hoist, Aaron Gryder, 119; Tres Borrachos, David Flores, 122; Stryker Phd, Debbie Hoonan, 116.
NORTHWEST FARMS’ FILLIES GOOD AS GOLD
Stopshoppingdebbie*three for three with three stakes wins*has a chance to make Emerald Downs’ history in the $65,000 Washington Oaks for 3-year-old fillies onSaturday, August 10. A victory in the 1-1/8-mile Oaks would make Stopshoppingdebbie the first horse to sweep the open stakes category for 3-year-old fillies.
A Kentucky-bred by Curlin-Taste the Passion, Stopshoppingdebbie is four-for-four lifetime with earnings of $92,318. She has won, in order, the 6 ½-furlong Seattle Handicap in a meet-fastest 1:14.41, the one-mile Irish Day Handicap in 1:34.74, and the 1-1/16-mile Kent Handicap in 1:43.13. In all three wins, stable mates Goin to the Window finished second and Blueberry Smoothie finished third.
In fact, Northwest Farms (Jerre Paxton) has earned $135,000 of the $150,000 purse money offered in the three stakes to date: Stopshoppingdebbie*3-3-0-0-$82,500, Goin to the Window*3-0-3-0: $30,000, Blueberry Smoothie*3-0-0-3; $10,000.
The stakes schedule has evolved over the years, and there were more events in when Shampoo reeled off victories in the first four races in 2007, before losing in the Washington Oaks. And in 2003, Youcan’ttakeme finished four-for-four with four stakes wins in 2003, but one of the wins was in restricted company and she sat out two other open stakes.
INTRODUCING THE PRESS BOX PODCAST!
Beginning with Sunday’s $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap, Emerald Downs is enhancing stakes coverage with a 45-minute podcast live from the media office atop the grandstand.
Hosted by Jacob Pollowitz of Media Relations (a.k.a. Professor Pollowitz) The Press Box Podcast begins approximately 30 minutes before each stakes and features interviews, analysis, Robert Geller’s live call of the stakes, and post-race interview from the Winner’s Circle. The podcast link can be found on the Emerald Downs Facebook page and Twitter feed.
BEWARE THE LONGSHOT KING
One of Emerald Downs’ most successful riders, Nathan Chaves ranks No. 10 all-time with 405 wins and No. 11 all-time with 15 stakes wins. But after a six-year absence, the 37-year-old Sumner native is trying to prove he maintains the talent that guided Sabertooth to a 17-to-1 upset in the 2002 Longacres Mile, and Demon Warlock to a runner-up finish at 10-to-1 in the 2004 Mile.
The results thus far have been mixed, as Chaves has a 6-2-10 record in 80 mounts through Sunday. But a pair of big-priced winners last weekend*One Lucky Hoss and Majorca Gold*reveals a bigger picture, that like most riders on the comeback trail Chaves is riding mainly longshots while reestablishing his skills to horsemen.
None of Chaves’ six winners were betting favorites, and only one was among the top three choices in its race.
Nathan Chaves’ 2013 wins at Emerald Downs:
Reliable Ema*$21.20, June 1 (trainer Larry Pierce)
Peekaboot Postette*$20.20, June 8 (trainer Marcie Riley)
Majorca Gold*$8.80, June 21 (trainer Rigoberto Velasquez)
Rorke’s Drift*$45, June 30 (trainer Marcie Riley)
One Lucky Hoss*$27, July 13 (trainer H.R. Gibson)
Majorca Gold*$23.60, July 14 (trainer Nick Lowe)
NOTES: Weekly honors: Trainer-Charles Essex (5-3-0-2);Jockey-Eliska Kubinova (15-6-3-3) Owner-Keith Swagerty (Mike Man’s Gold, Seattle Slew Handicap); Groom-Ana Regalado (trainer Frank Lucarelli); Washington-bred: Del Rio Harbor (breeders Bar C Racing Stables & Desert Rose Racing)*Trainer of the Week Charles Essex has one winner on the last five cards at Emerald Downs, and can extend the string if either Mo’em Down or Ourshanghaiexpress wins Friday*Mike Man’s Gold earned a career-high 79 Beyer for his neck victory over Music of My Soul in the Seattle Slew Handicap*Stopshoppingdebbie and Goin to the Window both got 77s for their one-two finish in the Kent Handicap*Chu and You was given a 63 Beyer *biggest of the season for a 2-year-old*for Saturday’s 5 ¾-length victory in :57.60 for five furlongs. Chu and You is a full sister to Chu and I, the track’s champion Juvenile Male of 2011 who debuted with a six-length victory in :51.19 for 4 ½ furlongs. Both Chu and You and Chu and I are owned and bred by Mike & Amy Feuerborn*This week’s featured Thoroughbred After the Finish Line*11-year-old multiple stakes winner Westsideclyde*will also parade in front of the grandstand between races Saturday*Jeff Metz begins Week 14 with a 25-22 lead over Lucarelli in the trainers standings, with Essex, Tim McCanna and Chris Stenslie tied for third with 19 wins apiece*Saturday’s 10-race card features an 870-yard opener of mixed Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, and the second race is for Quarter Horses at 350 yards*Saturday’s card has several attractive Thoroughbred races including a $21,000 allowance/optional claimer featuring a rematch of last month’s thriller between Polish Dollar (13-for-32 at Emerald Downs) and Camp Granada. Also entered in the 6 ½-furlong feature are 2012 Top Claimer Rocky’s Quest, 2009 Longacres Mile winner Assessment, and the quick Tom Wenzel-trained sprinter Gatling Gun*Speaking of Wenzel, the 47-year-old trainer is 5-5-3 in 16 stakes starts and on pace to break Doris Harwood’s single-season record of 12 stakes wins set in 2007 and 2009*Saturday’s ninth race, an $18,900 allowance/optional claimer for fillies and mares at six furlongs, marks the season debut of Cielator, who was last seen scoring a 5 ¾ length victory in the 2012 Belle Roberts Stakes. Her foes Saturday include multiple stakes winner Carrabelle Harbor, 5-for-10 lifetime River of Aces, multiple stakes-placed Royal Moses and 3-for-4 at the meet Seventyprcentcocoa*Taylors Deal*5-for-9 lifetime with earnings of $147,668*is entered for a $25,000 tag in Saturday’s seventh race, an $18,900 optional claimer at 6 ½ furlongs. Winner of three stakes as a 3-year-old*two at Turf Paradise, one at Hastings Racecourse*Taylors Deal has been off since a fourth-place finish in the $200,000 B.C. Derby (G3-C) last September. Mt. Rainier Handicap nominee Memphis Beach, 2012 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic winner Kooky Saluki and razor-sharp I Keep Saying are other contenders*As if that weren’t enough, Saturday’s sixth race at one mile for $17,500 claimers is loaded with sharp runners including recent winners Havin a Good Day, Wowie Maui and Dare Me Devil*David Flores added a second ride Sunday, picking up the mount on Sweet Nellie Brown in race six for trainer Jim Penney. The 6-year-old mare has earned $155,794 in a 31-race career, but comes off fifth place finishes in her last two starts*Congratulations to Lucarelli for his first career Del Mar victory, as 3-year-old filly Anita Marie ($25.20) prevailed on Wednesday’s opening day card for owner/breeder Howard Hammer of Stanwood*Last weekend’s 14th annual Emerald Downs Equine Art Show generated over $10,000 in art sales, according to Kerry Dalton, the event’s co-chairperson*The Tim McCanna-trained Plus One, third and fifth in the first two older filly and mares stakes this season at Emerald Downs, finished second Thursday in a $62,500 claiming race with an $80,000 purse at Del Mar*Saturday at Del Mar, Sandys Diamond, runner-up to Rocky’s Quest in a June 30 optional claimer at Emerald Downs is entered in a $20,000 claiming race with Gary Stevens named to ride for trainer Troy Taylor*Perfect weather is forecast this weekend at Emerald Downs, with temperatures between 80 and 83 degrees all three days and zero percent chance of rain*Sunday is the annual Fiesta Premio Esmeralda as the track honors the contributions of the Hispanic community. The first 3,000 paid admissions receive free t-shirts*Leading earnings at 2013 meeting: Horses-Stopshoppingdebbie-$82,500, Exclusive Diva-$59,050, E Z Kitty-49,200, Music of My Soul-$41,700, Finallygotabentley-$40,060, Mike Man’s Gold-$39,470, Gosailgo-$38,750, Polish Dollar-$36,592, Hoist-$30,965, Goin to the Window-$30,000; Owners-Northwest Farms & Debbie Paxton-$129,110, Northwest Farms-$82,500, Ron Crockett Inc.-$73,375, Howard Belvoir-$67,654, Randall & Rossi LLC-$61,458, Dr. Rodney Orr-$60,601, Sue & Tim Spooner-$59,824, Saratoga West-$56,193, R & R Warren LLC-$49,124; John & Janene Maryanski-$47,615.