(Auburn, WA) The draw for the 2023 $150,000 Longacres Mile was completed Wednesday afternoon and in the end 10 horses will break from the Emerald Downs starting gate and defending champion Slew’s Tiz Whiz will come out of the 9 gate. The draw for the defending champ is a good one as Slew likes to come from off the pace and regular rider Jose Zunino will be in perfect position to stalk and let him settle for his big stretch run.
If the Governor’s Handicap is any indication, Slew’s Tiz Whiz is cranked and ready to go as leading stakes trainer Tom Wenzel looks to add another title to his ledger. Morning line oddsmaker Vince Bruun has made Slew’s Tiz Whiz the 9-5 favorite. If Slew’s Tiz Whiz can defend his title he would become the only 2nd time that has happened at Emerald Downs and 5th time overall.
Bruun slated shipper Five Star General as the slight 2nd choice at 2-1. Five Star General has run in the 3 previous Mile’s and has finished 2nd and 3rd twice and can become the 1st horse in the history of the Longacres Mile to place in the top 3 in 4 straight Mile’s if he hits the board. Five Star General has a new trainer in Grant Forster who has made history in the Mile when he trained here regularly in the early 2000’s. Forster started No Giveaway and won it at 60-1 crowning the longest shot ever to win the Mile and returned $122 on the $2 win.
The last chance for a horse to win back-to-back was last year with Background. Background won a thrilling race in the 2021 Mile when Rocco Bowen got Background’s nose down in the final stride to beat Windribbon by a nose.
ESN talked with Background’s owner Bob Rondeau who says they did think about bring Background back for a 3rd go in the mile but he’s doing well back at Ellis Park in Kentucky. Rondeau says the last 2 years worked out because after the Mile they had planned to turn Background out at trainer Mike Puhich’s Pegasus training and rehab center in Redmond. This made it an easy decision to ship him up for the race knowing he was headed for a break just up the road.
Rondeau says this year he’s still going strong and there are a few more races they are looking at in the mid-west through September so it didn’t make sense to ship him way up here and then back to the mid-west, it was too much so they elected to keep him where he is. Rondeau says the timing just didn’t work out this year.
Emerald Downs’ Media Director Vince Bruun was at the draw and wrote up the following press release with a complete line-up, starting positions, riders and morning line odds.
By Vince Bruun
Ten older horses led by defending champion Slew’s Tiz Whiz square off in Sunday’s 88th running of the $150,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs. The Mile goes as race 8 on a 10-race card with first post 2 p.m.
Slew’s Tiz Whiz drew the No. 9 post and was made 9 to 5 morning line favorite as he bids to become only the fifth two-time Mile winner and just the second at Emerald Downs.
Elttaes Stable’s Five Star General is 2 to 1 on the morning line with California invader Il Bellator, owned by Theresa and Edward DeNike of Kent, third at 6 to 1.
Trained by Tom Wenzel, owned by Slew’s Crew Racing and ridden by Jose Zunino, Slew’s Tiz Whiz can join Amble In (1946, 1948), Trooper Seven (1980-1981), Simply Majestic (1988-1989), and Stryker Phd (2014-2015) as repeat winners of Washington’s most historic race. The lone Washington-bred in this year’s lineup, Slew’s Tiz Whiz rallied from eight lengths back to prevail by 2 ¾ lengths last year, surging past Papa’s Golden Boy late and stopping the teletimer in 1:34.46.
The 5-year-old bay gelding is 1-1-0 from two starts in 2023, including a sparkling score in the 6 ½-furlong Governor’s Stakes three weeks ago. Slew’s Tiz Whiz life mark is 7-3-2 from 17 starts with earnings of $222,857.
Five Star General also can make Mile history. The well-traveled 7-year-old could become the first horse to finish in the money in four straight Miles, having finished second in 2020 and third in 2021 and 2022. This year’s race marks his fourth different trainer in the Mile, with Grant Forster succeeding Doris Harwood, who took over from Sandi Gann, who succeeded the late Glen Todd.
Purchased by Ken Alhadeff from the Glen Todd dispersal, Five Star General has improved with age and changed to a front-running style that netted a win and two seconds this year at Fair Grounds, Evangeline Downs, and Horseshoe Indianapolis. Five Star General is 9 for 29 lifetime with earnings of $520,269, but 0-2-3 in seven starts at Emerald Downs.
Joe Bravo, winner of over 5,600 races and nearly $200,000 million in purses, makes his first Emerald Downs appearance to ride Five Star General.
Il Bellator is a wildcard. Trained by Jose Bautista, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by Shackleford has a sparkling resume this year on turf—finishing fourth beaten 2 ½ lengths at 68 to 1 in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile and third beaten a half-length at 56 to 1 in the Grade 3 San Francisco Mile. Il Bellator also captured the 2022 California Derby on synthetic, but is winless in two starts on dirt, most recently finishing a distant third in the Pleasanton Mile.
Seattle Bold steps up in class following consecutive dirt route wins at Pleasanton and Sacramento and was claimed for $40,000 from the latter by trainer Dan Markle and owner Craig Peerenboom. A 5-year-old California-bred, Seattle Bold figures to add to Sunday’s early pace.
The top earner and graybeard in this year’s field is Zestful, an 8-year-old Ghostzapper gelding stretching out after a fourth and third in the Budweiser Stakes and Governor’s Stakes. Earner of $706,780 in a 55-race career, Zestful is trained by Justin Evans, currently the meet leader with 36 wins through Sunday.
Trainer Blaine Wright has been in the thick of the Longacres Mile the last five years, compiling a win and three seconds, and saddles Top Executive this year. The 2021 Emerald Downs’ Horse of the Meeting, Top Executive tuned up with a 6 ½-furlong allowance win July 23 and is 6 for 11 lifetime at Emerald Downs.
A Man’s Man, owned by 102-year-old Howard Hammer, tries to regain the form that saw the California-bred son of Mucho Mach Man win 7 of 13 starts and $169,984 in 2022. Arma d’Oro tries two turns and moves up to stakes company following three good allowance sprints. Exclusive Speaker raced in a $6,250 claimer as recently as May but has fared well in routes including a track record of 1:38.20 for 1 mile & 70 yards.
You’re the Cause authored one of the biggest upsets in track history in the 2022 Muckleshoot Derby, rallying from last for a $115.60 stunner. Javier Matias, winner of the 2018 Mile on Barkley, has the mount for trainer Debbie Van Horne.
Entries were also drawn for the $50,000 Emerald Distaff, $50,000 Muckleshoot Derby, and $50,000 Washington Oaks. Emerald Downs offers a special Championship Sunday all stakes $0.50 Pick Four on races 5-8; last year’s produced a mammoth $67,847.05 payout with victories by Zippin Sevenz ($49), Tiz a Macho Girl ($45), You’re the Cause ($115.60), and Slew’s Tiz Whiz ($8.80).