AUBURN — The strategy was as simple as it was effective.
“It was go, go, go,” Herbie D trainer Robert Gilker said.
And boy, did Herbie D go. Straight to the lead and straight to the winner’s circle as the 5-year-old Canadian-bred and Canadian-based gelding romped to a 1½-length victory in the 78th $200,000 Longacres Mile on Sunday before a packed crowd at Emerald Downs.
It was the second straight year a British Columbia horse won the Grade III Mile, with Taylor Said winning last year.
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All of the talk about this year’s race being one of the most competitive Miles in a long time? Forget it.
Herbie D was quick enough to overcome the outside post, taking the lead into the first turn.After running a not-too-taxing opening quarter of a mile and half-mile, the race was all but over.
Herbie D, whose winning time was 1 minute, 35.12 seconds, remained comfortably ahead throughout the stretch, and the only suspense was who would finish second. That honor went to Stryker Phd, who was a head ahead of Golden Itiz.
It was the fourth straight stakes race at Emerald in which Stryker Phd has been second.
Herbie D paid $6.80 and was the second choice in the wagering after winning the Mt. Rainier Handicap last month in his Emerald Downs debut. He now has 10 wins in 13 career starts, and he earned $110,000 on Sunday.
“I am very happy,” said Herbie D’s jockey, Amadeo Perez, who speaks little English, but his smooth ride spoke volumes.
It was anything but smooth for the favorite, Politicallycorrect, and his jockey, Russell Baze, who rode in his record 20th Longacres Mile. He is the winningest jockey in North American history with more than 12,000 wins.
Baze said he thought that his horse was in a great position, but said the horse was bumped on the backstretch and “didn’t run a bit after that.”
“We were bumped pretty hard, but most horses aren’t going to just fold up like that,” he said.
And Baze seemed unimpressed with moving ahead of cousin Gary Baze as sole leader in most Mile rides.
“It doesn’t mean (expletive) if you don’t win,” he said.
But it was Herbie D’s day.
Leave it to Don Munger, the 89-year-old owner, trainer and World War II veteran, who was the honorary steward, to sum up the winner.
“I sure wish I had a horse like him,” he said.
E Z Kitty wins Emerald Distaff
Bettors questioned if E Z Kitty, who has had her biggest success in sprint races, could run 11
8 miles, the distance in the $65,000 Emerald Distaff.
As it turned out, it wasn’t a problem at all. E Z Kitty cruised past heavily favored Evelyn’s Dancer to take an 8-length lead, then easily held off late-closing Wando Woman to win by 3½ lengths.
“I wasn’t worried about the distance, because when she’s right, she can run all day,” said E Z Kitty jockey Anne Sanguinetti. “She just dragged me to the front. When she’s right, she’s a Ferrari.”
E Z Kitty, who won for the first time at a distance longer than a mile, had a winning time of 1 minute, 49.24 seconds. She paid $9.80 to win.
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