When Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Mario Gutierrez asked his horse Point Piper to make his move, “He just exploded,” running down local star O B Harbor
AUBURN — Jockey Leslie Mawing had no excuses, just admiration.
“My horse ran good, but that horse just ran away from everyone,” Mawing said after riding two-time defending champion Stryker Phd to a fifth-place finish in his attempt to become the first horse to win the $200,000 Longacres Mile three times.
The horse who pulled away from everyone Sunday to win the 81st running of the most prestigious horse race in the Northwest was Point Piper, who won by 4¾ lengths in a stakes and track record time of 1 minute, 32.90 seconds.
“When I asked him to run, he just exploded,” said Point Piper jockey Mario Gutierrez, who for the second time won the Kentucky Derby and the Longacres Mile in the same year.
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And when Point Piper exploded, local star O B Harbor had no answer, fading to third after leading into the stretch. O B Harbor had been 4 for 4 at Emerald Downs this season, and was the 13-10 favorite. He took the early lead as expected and was ahead by three lengths entering the far turn.
Soon, he was being passed by the winner. Jose Zunino, who rode O B Harbor, also had no excuses.
“He was a little excited and we ran a little faster early than normal, but he ran a good race,” he said. “The other horse just ran a better race.”
The race could not have gone any better for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, even though the California-based trainer did not make the trip. His horses finished 1-2 as Cyrus Alexander, based in Southern California as is the winner, rallied strongly to finish second.
Point Piper was the third choice in the wagering, paying $12.20 to win. His owners received $110,000 for winning the Grade III race.
Gutierrez said Point Piper broke well but he let his horse drift to the back of the field, moving inside to save ground around the first turn. Gutierrez said he hoped a hole would open up, and when it did, Point Piper was more than ready.
It was Point Piper’s second victory on a fast dirt track in 12 attempts, but the 6-year-old horse had been facing some of the best competition in North America. And Point Piper’s class certainly proved to be the difference Sunday.
The previous two years, it was Mawing and Stryker Phd who made eye-catching late moves to win the Mile. Mawing said Stryker Phd got squeezed a bit on the first turn, but he had plenty of time to get free and make his move.
“We made a nice move around the turn and he ran a good race,” Mawing said of the 7-year-old gelding. “He ran a good race, but the other horse ran a great race. Just look at the time.
Not when the winner was this good.