Mario Gutierrez can now add the Longacres Mile to his growing list of 2012 accomplishments.
Gutierrez, who was the winning jockey in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, guided Taylor Said through a thrilling stretch drive, prevailing by a head to capture the $200,000 Longacres Mile (Grade III) at Emerald Downs on Sunday.
Taylor Said, owned by Glen Todd’s North American Thoroughbred Horse Company, Inc., covered the distance in a speedy 1 minute, 333/5 seconds.
“(Taylor Said) was really sharp today,” said Gutierrez, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness aboard I’ll Have Another. “He was pulling pretty hard. I didn’t want to choke the race out of him, so I let him go a little wide into the first turn. I was surprised to see so many horses going for the lead.”
Front-runner Winning Machine, with Javier Matias in the irons, set pressured fractions of 23.7 seconds, 46.38, 1:09.3 and 1:21.25 before being challenged by Taylor Said down the lane.
A duel ensued with Taylor Said gaining a slight advantage only to see the Frank Lucarelli-trained Winning Machine continue to fight back.
“If this was my first time riding at Emerald Downs, I might have started panicking, but I know good horses can carry their speed on this track,” Gutierrez said. “My horse hesitated once he got the lead. I think he was used to the shorter stretch at Hastings (in Vancouver, B.C.). When Winning Machine came back, my horse kept going. He’s a fighter, too.”
It was the sixth consecutive victory for the British Columbia-bred son of Stephanotis and improved his record to 7-2-0 from 10 starts.
Taylor Said, trained by Michael Puhich, went off as the second betting choice at 5-2 odds and returned $7.20, $4.60 and $3.20.
The win was worth $110,000, increasing the 4-year-old gelding’s career earnings to $259,583.
“This win is very special for me,” said Gutierrez, who also won the 2009 Boeing Handicap aboard the Todd-owned Holy Nova at Emerald Downs. “Glen (Todd) is like my dad and (trainer) Troy (Taylor) is like my grandpa. I’m so happy I could win this race for them. They’re my family.”
Taylor Said, who won the British Columbia Cup Classic on Aug. 6, became the first horse since Silver Double in 1970 to win the Longacres Mile after making his previous start at Hastings Racecourse and is the first B.C.-bred to win the stakes since Kid Katabatic in 1997.
Winning Machine held on for second and paid $8 and $4.40.
“I thought someone would go early,” Matias said. “I had the inside post, so it made sense for me to take the lead. He ran so big. (Taylor Said) passed us easily, but my horse came right back. I don’t think we ever got the lead back, but he dug in the whole way.”
Awesome Gem, the defending Mile champion and the 2-1 favorite in the 10-horse field, lacked early speed under jockey David Flores before finishing strong to grab third, returning $3.20.
“I had to do the best with what I had. I had nowhere to go outside, so I was just looking for a pocket to go through,” Flores said about Awesome Gem’s start. “I finally got through, but it was too late. The leaders were already seven lengths ahead at the top of the stretch.”
St. Liams Halo, Todd’s second horse in the race, finished fourth.
Bailouttheminister, Jump Up and Kissme, Gallant Son, Jebrica, Hudson Landing and Assessment completed the order of finish.