Part of the process: Elusive Noise's handlers get her ready for next race
Emerald Downs groom Jose Lomeli spends a lot of time with Elusive Noise, a 4-year-old filly whose next race will be Sunday.
Seattle Times staff
The Seattle Times is following Elusive Noise throughout the 2012 Emerald Downs meeting to take readers inside horse racing and shine a light on the sport's personalities.
AUBURN — Jose Lomeli talks like a proud papa, sneaking in a few words while busily tending to the precocious 4-year-old he takes care of on a daily basis.
Sure, he has been bitten a few times, but that doesn't change how he feels about Elusive Noise, a Northwest Farms filly at Emerald Downs who The Seattle Times is following throughout the season.
It's an important day for the horse in preparation for Sunday's Washington State Legislators Stakes. Exactly a week before the big race, Elusive Noise is getting ready with a five-eighths of a mile run, her only official, timed workout between races.
It is just after 8 a.m., and Lomeli is tending to Elusive Noise, putting bandages on her front legs, and putting on a bridle and saddle. He is showing genuine affection for the filly, patting her and doing everything very carefully.
Elusive Noise knows the drill, and her groom, well.
Ask Lomeli what he likes about the horse, and the answer comes quickly: "Everything."
Lomeli is a groom in trainer Tom Wenzel's barn, and he tends to seven horses, cleaning their stalls, feeding them and becoming a best friend. He has been with Elusive Noise since the horse first came to the racetrack at age 2, although she didn't race until her 3-year-old year.
As usual, the day began early for Lomeli. He greeted Elusive Noise at about 4:30 a.m., and breakfast was served. Always an excellent eater, she especially needed a good meal on this busy morning.
A near miss
Elusive Noise is having a good year, but it's been oh, so close to being great. After finishing third in April in her first race of the season, she ran a huge race in the Hastings Handicap on May 13.
Elusive Noise took the early lead and fought off a couple of challenges from heavily favored Class Included, before finally being passed just before the wire, losing by a head.
Lomeli watched nervously, like a Little League parent.
"Come on, go, come on, go," Lomeli yelled.
Almost as soon as the race ended, Wenzel began thinking about the next one.
Now, three weeks later, the first clue that this is not a normal training day came just before 8 a.m. She is given a shot of Lasix, a diuretic given to many Thoroughbreds to prevent bleeding through the nostrils, although Wenzel said that has not been an issue for Elusive Noise.
After the shot, Elusive Noise is left loose in her stall rather than being tied up. She sticks her head out often, posing for a photographer.
While Lomeli gets Elusive Noise outfitted, Wenzel waits for jockey Gallyn Mitchell, who rode Elusive Noise in the Hastings Handicap. Jockeys often work out the horses they will ride, particularly stakes horses like Elusive Noise. Wenzel wants her to go five-eighths of a mile between 59 and 61 seconds.
"Gallyn has a good feel for how fast they are going," the trainer says.
Mitchell arrives, and gets his instructions. He is still smarting from the narrow loss to Class Included, last year's champion 3-year-old filly at Emerald, who is quickly becoming one of the greatest female horses in track history.
The Hastings stakes was Mitchell's first race aboard Elusive Noise, but he knew the filly from riding her in a workout and following her career. Mitchell thought the race was won when she refused to let Class Included pass at the 16th pole. But Class Included proved the jockey wrong.
"That filly hates to lose, and knows where the wire is, and got her head in front just in time," Mitchell says. "She's a great horse, but my horse is, too. It was a great race."
It's 9:15, and it's time.
Kyrie Baze, the pony girl, rides to the barn to lead Elusive Noise to the track, about a quarter-mile away. Baze rides a horse that will be side by side with Elusive Noise to help keep her relaxed until she begins her workout.
Wenzel's father, Wayne, has arrived to watch. While Mitchell gets aboard Elusive Noise, the Wenzels hop in a golf cart and drive to the track.
Both the horse and trainer are ready.
Giving her best chance
Mitchell and Baze ride to the other side of the track, where Elusive Noise begins accelerating, leaving Baze and her horse behind. Wenzel clicks his stopwatch and looks through binoculars. He likes what he sees.
Elusive Noise runs relaxed around the far turn, then speeds up and blows past a young horse racing outside of her. Wenzel clocks her at 1 minute and two-fifths of a second, in the range he had hoped.
"She probably got to about 80 to 85 percent (of full speed)," Wenzel says. "There is no money today."
Wenzel has five minutes before another horse begins a workout. He gets in his cart and zips back to his barn to greet Mitchell and Elusive Noise. Mitchell says the workout went perfectly. The two chat briefly, then Wenzel gets back into his cart and returns to the track.
Lomeli can handle things from here. "They're more important than me," Wenzel says of his grooms.
It's not quite 9:40 and Lomeli puts Elusive Noise on a device that looks like a primitive merry go-round — a hot-walker. She walks in circles to cool down.
At 9:50, Lomeli gives Elusive Noise a well-deserved cleaning, scrubbing every inch of the horse. She seems to like it, not showing even a bit of agitation.
Lomeli puts a blanket on the horse, then puts her back on the hot-walker, where she walks in circles for another half-hour.
The active part of Elusive Noise's day is over, and she waits for her lunch at 11:30. Wenzel's work for the morning is also ending, but he has horses in that day's races and will be working late.
Elusive Noise will gallop and jog later in the week, but nothing as serious as this workout.
"Things went well today," Wenzel says. "It's all part of the process. You're trying to get them ready without rushing too much. You want to give them their best chance."
On Sunday, Wenzel will know if the three weeks of planning and training worked. And you can bet Lomeli, Elusive Noise's biggest fan, will be watching.