Longacres Mile ready to roll


Sports editor

It is simply known as The Mile, and tomorrow the biggest horse race in Washington will tee off around 5 p.m. at Emerald Downs in Auburn. The $250,000 Longacres Mile, the most-anticipated race at the track, is celebrating its 68th running.

The race was run 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. The race returned to the west side of the mountains in 1996 with one of the most famous owner-trainer teams in the industry winning the inaugural Mile at Emerald Downs — Bob Baffert and Mike Pegram, who have won multiple Triple Crown races together.

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

This year’s edition of The Mile will feature several horses imported from California, as well as the best Washington has to offer. The early favorite, 7-year-old Sky Jack, hails from California and won at the Hollywood Gold Cup last year. He has been racing at Hollywood Park and won there in his last start July 5, but has never been shipped out of California.

“That last race was the Sky Jack of old,” said trainer Doug O’Neill. “He’s a hard knocker when he’s doing well. It’ll be a hard race, but we’re going to go for it. He has real gas.”

Other California imports in this year’s field include Crafty C.T., the third-place finisher in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Captain Squire and Gondolieri.

Local favorites include Sabertooth, Alfurune, Flying Notes, Moonlight Meeting and Poker Brad.

Sabertooth won last year’s mile as a 14-to-1 longshot and paid out $37.20 in the win.

“He has a chance to repeat in the Mile,” trainer Jim Penney said of his 5-year-old gelding. “His best distance is 7/8 to a mile.”

Flying Notes, the 2002 Horse of the Meeting at Emerald Downs, is trained by Bud Klokstad and finished third in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor’s Handicap.

“He’ll work this week,” Klokstad said. “We’ll see where he’s at.”

Emerald Downs’ leading rider, Kevin Radke, will ride Flying Notes, and Klokstad leads all trainers at Emerald Downs in stakes wins with 36.

The Longacres Mile put Washington thoroughbred racing on the map in the ’30s. The race was started by Joe Gottstein in June of 1935.

He made the announcement that Longacres would feature the $10,000 Longacres Mile. The mile was not considered the classic distance, and that is what appealed to Gottstein so much. 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 a 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.

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