It has been 29 years since trainer Larry Ross saddled a Longacres Mile winner.
That triumph came at the Grade 3 race’s namesake, when fan favorite Chum Salmon surprisingly overcame 15 lengths to win the 1985 edition.
The Ross barn will look to end the almost three-decade Mile drought today, when Stryker Phd goes postward in the 79th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.
Installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite, Stryker Phd will break ninth from the rail in the 12-horse field while carrying 121 pounds, the highest among the dozen runners.
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“I’m very happy with the post. It looks like most the speed is on the inside, so that’s good for us,” Ross said. “You couldn’t really ask for anything better with his training.”
The 5-year-old gelding has been brilliant in his two starts this season at the Auburn oval, capturing both the Mount Rainier and Budweiser handicaps.
Stryker Phd, a late-closing second in last year’s Mile, brings a record of 4-4-4 from 15 starts with $182,751 in earnings into the race.
Regular rider Leslie Mawing, who guided the gelding to a stakes-record winning time (1:40.22) in the 11/16-mile Mount Rainier Handicap, once again receives the mount.
Prohibition, purchased by Mark Dedomenico and Glen Todd for $120,000 at an auction in Kentucky last month, comes in at 3-1 on the morning line, while Title Contender, Hastings Park’s top handicap horse this year, was listed at 9-2.
The Anita Bolton-conditioned Title Contender is one of four Mile runners trained by women. The list also includes Disruption (Monique Snowden), Dontmesswithkitten and Mysterious Soul (Barbara Heads).
Four female trainers — Frances Keller (Pala Squaw, 1940), Janet Wig (Adventuresome Love, 1994), Shauna Van Oostdam (Kid Katabatic, 1997) and Doris Harwood (Noosa Beach, 2010) — have captured the Longacres Mile.
Should Disruption enter the winner’s circle this year, the 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding will make Mile history with his all-female connections: Eliska Kubinova will ride Distruption for owner Heidi Nelson.
“I’ve never seen him this good before,” Snowden added. “His workouts are amazing. His attitude is amazing. He might win. He might not. But he’ll be right there.”
Rounding out the field for the Mile — the seventh race on the card at approximately 5 p.m. — are Jebrica, Twistgrips, Boyett, Scat Daddybaby, Mr. Bowling and Shooting Jackey.
While the Longacres Mile is the card’s feature race, the $65,000 Emerald Distaff, a 11/8-mile stakes for older fillies and mares, will feature perhaps the ground’s top horse in undefeated filly Stopshoppingdebbie.
The 4-year-old daughter of Curlin, is eight-for-eight lifetime and will look to win her fourth stakes race at the meeting and record-setting eighth consecutive stakes at Emerald Downs.
“I feel really comfortable with how she’s come up to the race,” said trainer Tom Wenzel about the 2-5 morning-line favorite in the Distaff. “She’s gotten a little more aggressive and I think that’s a positive. Right now, we’re close to being a Grade 3 horse, maybe a Grade 2.”
Stopshoppingdebbie, who will be under jockey Rocco Bowen, received post position No. 1. She will carry 124 pounds — six more than any other horse in the five-horse field.
Wenzel will have three of the five starters in the Distaff as the trainer will also saddle Blueberry Smoothie and Goin to the Window. Rounding out the field for the Emerald Distaff is Wando Woman and She’s Stella Marie.