Sports

Richest Longacres Mile in history goes to post Sunday

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The signature event at Emerald Downs — the Longacres Mile — will go to post Sunday around 5:30 p.m. at the Auburn horse racing track.

The $400,000 Mile is celebrating its 72nd running after being contested at the old Longacres Park in Tukwila from 1935 through 1992 before moving to Yakima Meadows for three years while Emerald Downs was being constructed. It is the longest running sporting event in Washington.

This year's race marks a significant moment in the history of The Mile. In June, Emerald Downs partnered with TVG Network to increase the purse of the face to $400,000 and gained a national opportunity to be an important prep race for the inaugural $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Monmouth Park. This year's purse is the largest in the history of horse racing in the Pacific Northwest. Last year's race paid out a purse of $250,000.

The increased purse has brought some stronger thoroughbreds into the 12-horse field.

Raise the Bluff, who started his racing career at Emerald Downs, might be the best of the bunch and returns as the favorite.

Listed at 3-1 in the morning line, the 4-year-old colt, owned by Emerald Downs president Ron Crockett, drew the eighth position in the Wednesday morning drawing for the 12 starting positions.

Raise the Bluff last raced at Emerald Downs on Sept. 4, 2006, when he won the $100,000 Emerald Derby. Since then he has raced in Canada and California, piling up $247,706 in career earnings and a record of 5-3-2 in 17 starts. Crockett also will start The Great Face (4-1) and Dontwritemeoff (20-1) Sunday.

But the most recognized name will be coming out of the fifth starting gate. The Bob Baffert-trained Sinister Minister has been installed as the second choice during Sunday's Mile. Sinister Minister, winner of the 2006 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, will be ridden by jockey Clinton Potts. The 4-year-old colt ran in the 2006 Kentucky Derby and is listed at 7-2.

Baffert has won three Breeders' Cup races and won two legs of the Triple Crown four times with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998, Point Given in 2001 and War Emblem in 2002.

Also running out of the Baffert barn Sunday is Wanna Runner. Owned by 1996 Longacres Mile winner Mike Pegram, the 4-year-old gelding will have Emerald Downs' leading jockey Ricky Frazier aboard. Pegram hails from Mount Vernon and has owned winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Breeders Cup.

Trickey Trevor will be ridden by the country's all-time leading jockey, Russell Baze, and is given 5-1 odds. Other entries include The Great Race (4-1)

The one notable absence from the field is the winner of the 2006 Longacres Mile — Flamethrowintexan. "Tex" had a slight accident in training and was not entered.

The Longacres Mile put Washington thoroughbred racing on the map.

It was started by Joe Gottstein in June of 1935.

He made the announcement that the Tukwila track would feature the $10,000 Longacres Mile.

The mile was not considered the classic distance, and that is what appealed to Gottstein. He knew it took a unique horse to excel at the mile distance. It was too long for sprinters and not long enough for the routers.

The Mile was inaugurated with the then unheard of $10,000-added purse and for more than four decades it was the richest stakes event in the country at the mile distance.

“More than the Kentucky Derby, more than the Breeders Cup Classic, the Mile is the race I wanted to win,” Pegram said after the ‘96 race. “I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this race.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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