AUBURN – The drama surrounding Saturday’s $65,000 Washington Oaks at Emerald Downs wasn’t so much who would win the race, but how they would do it.
A change in tactics, and a rare rally from off the pace, allowed Stopshoppingdebbie to complete a rare feat for Northwest Farms’ owner Jerre Paxton and trainer Tom Wenzel, who combined to send out three in the field of four.
Stopshoppingdebbie, normally a front-runner, rolled late for a 3-length victory in the Oaks and became the first horse to sweep the 3-year-old filly series of stakes races at Emerald Downs.
To go one step beyond, Paxton and Wenzel horses finished 1-2-3 in all four of the 3-year-old filly races this season at the Auburn oval.
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“We tried to be a little more patient today,” said jockey Rocco Bowen, who has been aboard all four stakes wins for undefeated Stopshoppingdebbie. “She answered all the questions today.”
Paxton-owned and Wenzel-trained fillies Blueberry Smoothie, under Javier Matias, was second, 2 lengths in front of Goin to the Window, with Juan Gutierrez aboard.
Stopshoppingdebbie, 5 for 5 in her career, returned $2.80 to win.
“We wanted to let [Goin to the] Window dictate the pace a little more today and wanted to take Debbie a little off the pace and see if she can handle it for future reference with her,” Wenzel said. “It turned out Window had trouble at the gate and kind of broke flat-footed and Smoothie was the one who breaks sharp and goes.
“When others pass Debbie, she’s a racehorse. This is the best one [of the three].”
Stopshoppingdebbie, whose mom Taste the Passion was second in this race in 2000, ran the 11
8 miles in 1 minute, 48.65 seconds.
“Debbie’s got the whole package,” Wenzel said. “She’s got the best mind, and probably the actual most talent. Those two, in combination, are dangerous.
“Even though this was a big race, with the post positions, it was the time to [change strategy].”
The race is considered the championship race for 3-year-old fillies at the Auburn oval.
The daughter of Curlin won the first three 3-year-old filly races, taking the $50,000 Seattle Handicap, $50,000 Irish Day Handicap and the $50,000 Kent Handicap before Saturday’s off-the-pace triumph.
Paxton, with three Oaks wins, raised his Emerald record for owner stakes wins to 33, including his sixth stakes score in 2013. Wenzel has teamed with Paxton for all six of those stakes wins this season.
• The Bob Baffert-trained Liaison, a Grade I winner, tops the handicap weights at 123 pounds for the $200,000 Longacres Mile next Sunday. The top three weight assignments were given to Southern California horses. Craig Lewis trainee Clubhouse Ride checked in at 122 pounds and Fed Biz, another Baffert runner, came in at 121.
Herbie D, who shipped in from Vancouver, B.C. to win the Mount Rainier Handicap on July 21 at Emerald, was also assigned 121 along with Politicallycorrect and Summer Hit. Commander and Drill were given 120 each.
Emerald-based runners Jebrica (118), Hoist (117), Winning Machine (117), Stryker Phd (116), Assessment (115) and Saddleranch (115) all have a good chance of landing a spot in the starting gate.
• The EmD 3-On-3 basketball tournament took place in the north parking lot this weekend at Emerald Downs. A total of 29 courts were set up for the inaugural event, which drew 261 teams and 1,044 players.
• Trainer Tim McCanna claimed 2-year-old filly Fragrant Harbor for $25,000 out of Saturday’s third race for owners Al Hodge and Ray McCanna.