Last? Stryker Phd running last in the Longacres Mile with a half-mile to go?
No one expected that. Least of all Leslie Mawing, the rider on the favorite in the 79th running of the premier race in the Pacific Northwest. The 5-year-old gelding has closed on the leaders and beat them in his past two races, the Mount Rainier Handicap and the Budweiser Handicap.
And last year in the Longacres Mile, Stryker Phd could get only to second place behind Herbie D, a Canadian-bred horse and the second of two Canadian horses to take the Mile trophy back north the past two years.
But this year, Mawing and Stryker Phd rallied from last to close on Scat Daddybaby, who had led most of the race, and the other leaders to win the $200,000 race by a head in a time of 1 minute, 33.67 seconds.
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For Larry and Sharon Ross, trainers of Stryker Phd, it was their first Mile victory in 29 years since Chum Salmon won the 1985 version in a similar come-from-behind fashion.
“Horses like that don’t like to stop and start,” Larry Ross said from the winner’s circle. “They lose their momentum when that happens. They get stronger and stronger as they go if you can keep them clear.”
Which is what Mawing managed to do.
“All the speed was inside of him,” Ross said.
So Mawing was able to get the horse to the rail and save ground before going wide in the stretch and driving for the victory.
Stryker Phd paid $4.60, $3.20 and $2.60 for the triumph. Boyett, ridden by Agapito Delgadillo in his first race at Emerald Downs, took second and paid $8.80 and $6. Twistgrips, with Amadeo Perez riding, returned $9.40 for show. Scat Daddybaby finished fourth.
Larry Ross hesitated to commit to any future plans for Stryker Phd, who added another $110,000 to his lifetime earnings of $182,751. The horse now is 5-4-4 in 16 starts, all at Emerald Downs except for four races at Golden Gate Fields in California.
“We’ll see how he sleeps tonight, let him rest on his laurels for at least a day,” Larry Ross said.
But Sharon Ross said there’s just one more race for Stryker Phd at Emerald Downs, the Muckleshoot Classic on Sept. 7.