Hudson Landing hangs on to win Mt. Rainier Handicap
St Liams Halo and Winning Machine finished close behind, setting up a tantalizing rematch in the $200,000 Longacres Mile
Seattle Times staff
AUBURN — Hudson Landing stamped himself as a strong contender for next month's $200,000 Longacres Mile, but it's doubtful he scared off St Liams Halo and Winning Machine.
That's because there were just two heads separating the three horses in Sunday's $50,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap for older colts and geldings at Emerald Downs, with Hudson Landing finally subduing Winning Machine in a long stretch battle before holding off a fast-closing St Liams Halo by a head.
"That was a heck of a horse race," said Blaine Wright, the trainer of Hudson Landing, who ran 1-1/16 miles in a speedy 1 minute, 40.77 seconds. "My hat's off to all of the top three horses. Any one of them could have won."
Hudson Landing paid $5.40 to win as the 8-5 favorite, having flown in from California where he has been facing some of the West Coast's top horses. But he was no lock, having only raced five times (in 31 starts) on real dirt without a win.
Hudson Landing flew here on Thursday, and waiting for him were Winning Machine, who had won the previous two stakes races for older horses at Emerald, and St Liams Halo, a star at Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C.
Jockey Frank Alvarado flew in from California to ride Hudson Landing, a 5-year-old gelding. He had his horse in fourth place early in the race, a few lengths behind front-runners Rainier Ice and Winning Machine.
Alvarado started urging his horse approaching the stretch and took a short lead, but Winning Machine battled back and the two fought on near-even terms. Meanwhile, St. Liams Halo got stuck behind horses and had nowhere to go.
Jockey Mario Gutierrez, the winning jockey in this year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, finally got St Liams Halo clear in midstretch and he began making up ground quickly. The finish line came just in time for the winner. Winning Machine was a head behind St Liam's Halo.
"I thought we were going to win," Gutierrez said.
But Alvarado was also confident in his horse.
"I knew once he got going that they were not going to pass him, because he's a fighter," Alvarado said of Hudson Landing.
The Mt. Rainier stakes was the final prep for the Longacres Mile, the signature horse race in the Northwest. Nominations are due by Aug. 5, and it's a good bet the top three will resume their rivalry with even bigger stakes on the line.