AUBURN — It’s amazing what a little confidence can do.
Mebossman, fresh off a romp over lesser competition, ran down 3-year-old stars Del Rio Harbor and Noosito in the final yards to win by a neck in Sunday’s $74,250 Emerald Downs Derby.
After losing in five stakes races the past two years to either Del Rio Harbor or Noosito, trainer Frank Lucarelli decided to give Mebossman a bit of a break, running him in an allowance race against lesser competition last month, and he rolled to a 6¾-length win.
“We wanted to get away from those two horses, to get him some confidence,” Lucarelli said. “I didn’t know if we would beat them (Del Rio Harbor and Noosito) and I don’t know if we would beat them if we race again. We got a little lucky today on a head bob at the wire.”
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It wasn’t quite that close. But while Mebossman was charging hard, it wasn’t apparent until very late in the race that he would catch either Del Rio Harbor, who was second, or Noosito, who was another head behind.
“You never know what’s going to happen, but my horse was closing pretty good, little by little,” said jockey Juan Gutierrez, who rode Mebossman.
The winning time in the 11/8 -mile race was 1 minute, 47.23 seconds.
It looked for much of the race that it would be another banner day for trainer Doris Harwood, who trains both Noosito and Del Rio Harbor, who had combined to win the first three stakes for 3-year-old males at the meet.
Del Rio Harbor went straight to the lead, while Noosito, the slight favorite over his stablemate, was right at his side.
Noosito took a brief lead in the stretch but Del Rio Harbor battled back. It looked like those two might duel together to the wire, but Mebossman began cutting into his deficit and for a while it looked like the three horses might hit the wire together.
But Mebossman took the lead just before the wire in a well-timed ride by Gutierrez.
“I was confident in my horse,” Gutierrez said. “ I had a lot of horse under me.”
Mebossman paid $13 to win on a $2 win ticket as the third betting choice in the field of seven.
25 nominated forLongacres Mile
Pending late mail, 25 horses have been nominated to the 79th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 24.
Stryker Phd is the top local contender in the Grade III stakes race as he has been brilliant in two starts at Emerald Downs this year for trainer Larry Ross.
Stryker Phd finished second in the 2013 Longacres Mile and set stakes records this year in sweeping the Budweiser and Mt. Rainier Handicaps.
The out-of-state nominees include recent Del Mar (Calif.) stakes winner Rock Me Baby, Handsome Mike, Blue Tone and Home Run Kitten.
Handsome Mike, a 5-year-old son of Scat Daddy trained by Doug O’Neill, is a multiple graded winner, including a triumph in the $1,000,000 Pennsylvania Derby.