A field of 11 top older horses including local standout O B Harbor and California shipper Alert Bay are entered in Sunday's $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) at Emerald Downs.
The 81st running of the Grade 3 Mile headlines a 10-race card also featuring the $65,000 Emerald Distaff for older fillies and mares at 1 1/8 miles.
The Longacres Mile goes as Race 8 at 5:51 p.m.
O B Harbor, unbeaten in four starts this season including the first three legs of the older handicap horse division, drew post No. 4 and is the 3-1 morning line favorite with regular rider Jose Zunino up for trainer Chris Stenslie and owner Jody Peetz of Issaquah, Wash.
An Oregon-bred 4-year-old gelding by Harbor the Gold-Flying Memo, O B Harbor fits the profile of recent Mile winners Stryker Phd, Noosa Beach, Assessment and Wasserman, who all culminated dominant seasons with victories in the Mile.
For Peetz, who bought O B Harbor for $18,500 at the 2013 WTBOA Summer Sale, a victory in Sunday would cap a dream season.
“It has been such a big surprise,” Peetz said. “We didn't know what we had at the beginning of the year. We knew he was talented, but when he came out and won his first race this year against older horses, we were like 'wow!' Then he came back and won the Governor's, which was my favorite race of his so far.
“I asked Chris (Stenslie) after that if she thought we had a Mile horse and she said, 'I think so.' It was still very important that he did well in the route stakes. If he hadn't done well, then we probably wouldn't be in here.”
In fact, O B Harbor was brilliant in both the one-mile Budweiser Stakes and the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier Stakes, winning the Budweiser by a half-length in 1:34.73 and the Mt. Rainier by two lengths in 1:41.05.
“For this to be my first graded-stakes, it's pretty exciting,” Peetz added. “I've always been pretty envious of others around this time of year, but now that I get to be part of The Mile, it's really cool. I'm just trying to enjoy the ride.”
Alert Bay, the richest earner in the field with over $1.1 million, drew post-position No. 5 and is the 7-2 second choice with Washington native Tyler Baze the rider for trainer Blaine Wright and owner Peter Redekop of Vancouver, B.C.
O B Harbor (11-6-1-2-$133,191) and California-bred Alert Bay (28-12-7-2-$1,127,815) are starting co high weights at 123 lbs each.
Stryker Phd, bidding to become the first three-time winner in Mile history, drew the No. 1 post with Leslie Mawing named to ride for trainer Larry Ross and owners Jim and Mona Hour of Bellevue, Wash. Coming off a fourth in the Mt. Rainier stakes, Stryker Phd is listed fourth choice at 5-1.
Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer sends out 4-1 third choice Point Piper and 6-1 fifth choice Cyrus Alexander. Point Piper drew post No. 8 with two-time Kentucky Derby winner Mario Gutierrez the jockey, and Cyrus Alexander drew No. 7 with Norberto Arroyo Jr. the jockey.
Rounding out the field are Sammy Mandeville (12-1), Prime Engine (15-1), Dedicated to You (20-1), Star Student (20-1), Sabado Alegre (30-1) and Indian Brut (30-1).
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