Move over, Trooper Seven. Make room, Simply Majestic. You two finally have a new member in your exclusive fraternity.
Stryker Phd became just the third horse, and first in 26 years, to win back-to-back editions of the Longacres Mile after the 6-year-old gelding defeated Sammy Mandeville by a length to win the 80th running of the $200,000 Grade III stakes at Emerald Downs on Sunday.
“I was just the co-pilot today,” said jockey Leslie Mawing, who has been aboard for both of Stryker Phd’s Longacres Mile triumphs. “The horse was the pilot. I wasn’t going to change the horse’s style of running.
“Win or lose, he was going to run his race today. I’m just grateful to be on this horse.”
Breaking seventh from the rail in the 11-horse field, Stryker Phd covered the distance in 1 minute, 34 seconds and returned $4.60, $3 and $2.40 as the 6-5 betting choice.
The Washington-bred son of Bertrando has won eight of 21 career starts and is undefeated in his past seven races at the Auburn oval.
His last loss locally came when he finished second to Herbie D in the 2013 Longacres Mile as he becomes the first horse in history to finish in the top two in three consecutive Longacres Miles.
“Any jockey that can win one, it’s fantastic, let alone two,” Mawing said. “Two Longacres Miles in a row. I am just blessed.”
The win was worth $110,000, increasing Stryker Phd’s career earnings to $485,651 for owners Jim and Mona Hour of Bellevue.
It was the third career Longacres Mile victory for trainer Larry Ross, who also saddled fan favorite Chum Salmon to a win in the stakes race 30 years ago.
Stryker Phd advanced through the second turn before overtaking the field with a furlong remaining. Mawing barely had to ask his horse down the stretch as they opened up a clear lead.
“I knew there would be a lot of speed in the race,” Mawing said. “We didn’t want to be too far out of it. He came through for us.”
Sammy Mandeville, under Hall of Fame jockey Alex Solis, rallied down the stretch to get up for second. The Doug O’Neill-trained colt paid $5.60 and $4.20.
“Unfortunately, (Sammy Mandeville) dropped a little too far back,” Solis said. “The mile was a little too short for him, but he did what he could.”
Alert Bay, with Rico Walcott in the irons, finished third, returning $3.60.
“I turned for home there, and my horse gave me a little kick. I thought I was home free,” said Walcott, whose horse briefly took the lead with a quarter mile remaining, but was unable to keep stride with the eventual winner.
Noosito, Del Rio Harbor, Absolutely Cool, Fleet Eagle, Majestic City, Taylors Deal, Modern and Prohibition completed the order of finish. Solemnly Swear was scratched.
Trooper Seven, with Washington Racing Hall of Fame jockey Gary Baze aboard, was the first to win the Longacres Mile in consecutive years, winning in 1980 and 1981.
Simply Majestic became the second back-to-back winner after victories in 1988 and 1989.
Amble In is the only other horse in the race’s 80-year history to win the Longacres Mile multiple times, capturing the race in nonconsecutive years in 1946 and 1948.
Stryker Phd is the first to win consecutive Longacres Miles at Emerald Downs, which has hosted the stakes since its opening in 1996.
The race debuted at its namesake in 1935 where it was contested until the Renton racetrack closed in 1992.
The Mile was then held for three seasons (1993-1995) at Yakima Meadows before arriving at Emerald Downs.
Also on the card, Lady Roseberg, ridden by Gallyn Mitchell, defeated Sarahline by 3 3/4 lengths to win the 20th running of the $65,000 Emerald Distaff.
Tom Wenzel’s charge covered the 1 1/8 mile distance in 1:48.68 and paid $2.80, $2.20 and $2.10. It was the eighth victory in 15 career starts for Lady Roseberg, who upped her lifetime earnings to $170,022 with the win.