AUBURN – A stakes-race bridesmaid no more.
After four consecutive runner-up finishes against Emerald Downs’ top handicap horses, stretch-running Stryker Phd can shed the label of nonwinner of two and add the coveted one of stakes winner.
Under a ground-saving ride from Debbie Hoonan, 4-year-old gelding Stryker Phd swung outside late and kicked on for a 3¼-length victory over Polish Dollar on Sunday in the featured $47,750 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic on Washington Cup Day XI at Emerald Downs.
The long-awaited victory came after four hard-charging, second-place showings, including a runner-up finish to Herbie D as a 15-1 shot in the Grade III Longacres Mile on Aug. 18.
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“He’s like a dream for you, and this is a horse I’ve waited a lifetime to find,” said Hoonan, 46. “He just keeps grabbing gears for you at the end. The more you ask of him, the more he gives you.”
Favored Stryker Phd gave trainer Margo Lloyd her third stakes victory at Emerald. He ran 11
16 miles in 1 minute, 40.99 seconds and paid $3.80 to win.
“It was nice to get rid of the nonwinners of two,” said Lloyd, who has been training for 30 years. “I was more nervous for this one than the Mile, because anything you got in the Mile was great. That was a great bunch of horses. I kind of liked him being a longshot.”
Stryker Phd improved to 2-4-4 from 11 career starts for earnings of $124,466. It was his first victory in six starts in 2013 after four seconds and a third.
“We’ve waited a long time,” said Stryker Phd co-owner Jim Hour.
Polish Dollar led under Juan Gutierrez to just outside the eighth pole before Hoonan angled the winner off the inside. Jebrica, a 3-2 shot with Isaias Enriquez up, finished third in the field of six.
Washington Cup Day featured six stakes races worth $297,750 for Washington-bred horses.
In her first visit to the track, jockey Chantal Sutherland-Kruse booted home the Howard Belvoir-trained He’s Not Bluffin first in the $50,000 Jim Beam Stakes for 3-year-old males. He’s Not Bluffin split horses down the stretch and won a three-horse photo over Somewhere With You and Music of My Soul, stopping the timer for the mile in 1:35.52. Sauci Belvoir, wife of trainer Vann Belvoir, is the owner of the winner.
“The fans here are just outrageous,” the 37-year-old Sutherland-Kruse said. “He’s a gutsy little horse. He held his own.”
The Belvoirs claimed the gelding for $25,000 from an Aug. 17 race at Emerald.
Sutherland-Kruse, who revived her career this summer at Del Mar, near San Diego, after almost eight months off, came specifically to ride for Vann Belvoir, who put her on two winners at Del Mar last month.
It was Sutherland-Kruse’s first stakes victory since returning in June.