Barkley beat favored Alert Bay by 1 1/2 lengths to win the Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs. The 5-year-old is the third Mile winner Howard Belvoir has trained.
Howard Belvoir said he was so high, “I might need a parachute to come down.”
No wonder. The trainer just watched his local star, Barkley, make a great charge in the stretch to win the Grade III Longacres Mile on Sunday at Emerald Downs in Auburn.
Ten years ago, Belvoir won his first Longacres Mile with a great stretch rally by Wasserman. Barkley’s win, which gave Belvoir his third Mile victory (he also won with Assessment in 2009), will likely also go down as a classic.
Barkley was in fifth place at the half-mile pole, about 6 lengths off a rather slow pace set by Kaabraaj. But Barkley began to move, veering inside and then outside and exploded when he finally got a clear path, overtaking the leaders. But then he had to deal with favored Alert Bay, who ran up alongside Barkley.
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“At the eighth pole, we stuck a head in front, and I thought we might win,” said Alert Bay jockey Juan Hernandez. “It was time to go, but the other horse (Barkley) is a good horse.”
Good enough to pull away in the final yards and win by 1 1/2 lengths in the $200,000 race.
“He was a real pro,” said Barkley jockey Javier Matias, who got his first Longacres Mile victory.
Barkley paid $7.40 to win and ran the mile in 1 minute, 34.93 seconds. The six-horse field was the smallest since the Longacres Mile began being held at Emerald Downs in 1996.
Alert Bay, who shipped in from Northern California, held on for second in his first start in 13 months for trainer Blaine Wright. Alert Bay’s stablemate, Oh Marvelous Me, was third. Wright, the two-time defending training champion at Emerald Downs, is still looking for his first victory in the Longacres Mile.
So is trainer Frank Lucarelli, who had high hopes for Mach One Rules, who was second in the Mile last year. But the horse hopped in the air at the start, losing several lengths and never got into the race. He finished fourth.
Conquest Windycity, an invader from the Midwest, also had a poor start and was never close.
Instead, it was all Barkley. Belvoir said Barkley does not train like an excellent horse, not wanting to put much effort into preparation. But when it comes to races, the 5-year-old is all heart, and always has been. He was Emerald Downs’ top 3-year-old in 2016 after winning the first six races of his career.
Barkley has won six career stakes races, including at least one in each of the past three years. He earned $108,900 for Sunday’s victory, bringing his career earnings to $351,800.
“He is a nice little horse,” said Belvoir in a bit of an understatement.
There was no doubt the crowd was cheering for Barkley in the stretch. He might not have been the betting favorite, but he was the sentimental choice.
“This is what the game is all about,” said Bob Rondeau, the former voice of the Huskies, who was the honorary steward for the Longacres Mile. “The local boy makes good.”