There is a very good chance that Papa’s Golden Boy will have the lead early in Sunday’s Grade III Longacres Mile, but will he still be leading at the end of the $100,000 race at Auburn’s Emerald Downs?
That is the perhaps the big question facing handicappers in the 11-horse field.
Papa’s Golden Boy certainly appears to be the top local contender and drew the No. 1 post position Wednesday. The 5-year-old gelding is 3 for 3 this season at Emerald Downs, including easy wins in the Budweiser Stakes and the Governor’s Stakes in which he led the entire race.
“He drew the No. 1 (post) in his last two races, so this is perfect for him,” said Papa’s Golden Boy trainer Vince Gibson, whose horse is the third choice on the morning line at 9-2.
Anyportinastorm, who finished second in the 2019 Longacres Mile, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite after making the trip from Southern California. The 7-year-old horse will start from post No. 5 and be ridden by local jockey Juan Gutierrez.
Five Star General, who finished second in the Mile last year, is the 7-2 second choice. The invader from Vancouver, B.C., will be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby and the Longacres Mile.
Weighing against Papa’s Golden Boy’s chances is that he has not won at a distance longer than 6½ furlongs (a mile is eight furlongs) and will face a field that includes several good invaders. He was fifth in last season’s Mile after leading for the first half-mile.
But Gibson said the horse has never been better. His three best Beyer speed figures have come in his past three races.
“He’s getting smarter,” Gibson said. “He’s saving a little for the end. He has always been a nice horse. I’m sure he can (win at a mile) but the competition is going to be tough. It’s going to be a fast pace.”
Gibson comes from a famous racing family in the state. His father and uncle were top trainers at Longacres, and his brother, Charles, trained the 1994 Longacres Mile winner, Want A Winner.
Vince, 62, was a jockey for about eight years at Longacres in Renton, but switched to training in 1984 when he got too big.
Gibson said Papa’s Golden Boy is the best horse he has trained.
“He’s relaxed when he’s training and when you ask him to go, he goes,” Gibson said. “He’s as good as I’ve had him. He worked out good the other day and he’s feeling good now.”
Because of that, Papa’s Golden Boy is in position to give Gibson the win of his career.
“That’s what we all shoot here for in this state,” Gibson said of the Longacres Mile.
Longtime University of Washington football and basketball radio announcer Bob Rondeau has a contender in the race. He and wife Molly own Background, who is 5-1 on the morning line.
Background is coming off a second-place finish in a $100,000 stakes race at Arlington Park outside Chicago. Rocco Bowen, who won three straight riding titles at Emerald Downs (2016-18) before moving on, will ride Background.
Post time for Sunday’s race is scheduled for 5:46 p.m.