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Originally published Saturday, August 17, 2013 at 6:07 PM

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At Longacres Mile, Frank Lucarelli and Winning Machine both gunning for overdue win

Winning Machine was edged by a head at last year’s Mile, extending Lucarelli’s drought at the Northwest’s signature race.

Seattle Times staff

Frank Lucarelli file

Age: 56

Career highlights: Has won five training titles at Emerald Downs, including the past two ... Has been first or second in the trainer standings in 11 of the past 14 years ... Has won 29 stakes races at Emerald Downs ... Trainer of Gallant Son, the 2-year-old champion at Emerald Downs in 2008 who won the Gottstein Futurity. Later that year, Gallant Son became the second Emerald-based horse to run in the Breeders’ Cup.

Did you know? He was an all-state pitcher for Newport High School in 1975 and threw a perfect game for Western Washington before playing two years in the minor leagues. His son, Michael, just finished his second season as an infielder at the University of Portland after being a two-time SPSL Class 3A MVP at Enumclaw High School.

Winning Machine file

Age: 7

Career earnings: $481,148 ($307,923 at Emerald Downs).

Career highlights: Has nine wins and nine seconds in 36 starts, including five stakes wins. Voted top 3-year-old male at Emerald in 2009 after winning the Emerald Downs Derby. He also won the Grade III British Columbia Derby at Hastings in Vancouver that year. Named top older male and the top sprinter at Emerald last year.

Did you know? He will be running in the Longacres Mile for the fourth straight year (fifth, seventh and second in the past three).

Scott Hanson

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In a span of about 1 minute and 34 seconds Sunday afternoon, two Emerald Downs greats could finally fill a big gap in their impressive resumes.

The odds are 15-1 against it. But bet against Winning Machine and trainer Frank Lucarelli in the Longacres Mile at your own risk. They are proven winners, and seem due to win the Grade III, $200,000 Mile. Maybe even overdue.

Lucarelli, the second-leading trainer in Emerald Downs history, is leading the standings again this year after winning the training title the past two years. Winning Machine, whom Lucarelli started training in summer 2010, has been one of the best horses on the grounds since winning the Emerald Downs Derby as a 3-year-old in 2009.

It would seem only fitting that the two can finally check off the Longacres Mile on their to-do list at the same time.

“For anyone who races horses in the Northwest, you want to win the Longacres Mile,” said Lucarelli, 56, who remembers sneaking into Longacres in Renton when he was a kid. “It’s a race I would love to win.”

He almost did last year. Winning Machine had never been better than he was a year ago, and he took the early lead in the Mile. At the top of the stretch, favored Taylor Said, an invader from Canada, passed Winning Machine and seemed headed to an easy win.

But Winning Machine fought back and the two horses waged a stirring duel to the finish, with Winning Machine falling a head short.

“I thought we were beaten, but our horse ran on,” Lucarelli said. “It was one of the most courageous performances I have ever seen. I think he got his head back in front in midstretch. I’ve never been more happy and disappointed at the same time.

“You don’t know from year to year whether you will have a horse that can run in the Mile. Who knows, I might not have another horse like that again in my career. So to lose by a head bob was very disappointing.”

After that narrow miss, Winning Machine was sent to Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., where he competed against some of the best horses in the country. In the Grade I Awesome Again stakes in September, he set the early pace but faded to sixth of nine.

The horse got an extended break after that, returning to action at Emerald in April. He is winless in four tries this year, with a second and a third, but Lucarelli said the horse is happy, healthy and just as good as last year. Lucarelli blames himself for a couple of the losses, saying he made bad strategic decisions.

Sunday’s task was not made easier when Winning Machine drew the No. 12 post position, which partially explains why the horse is 15-1 on the morning line.

But drawing the far outside made Sunday’s strategy straightforward. Lucarelli wants jockey Javier Matias to run the horse hard into the first turn while trying to get a spot where he is not forced too wide. With Winning Machine’s good early speed, he has a chance to make that happen.

“If you asked every trainer in the race which post they least wanted to have, I think they all would have said post No. 12,” Lucarelli said. “But we’ll be loading last, and we should be able to get in and out of there pretty quickly. Hopefully, he’ll be on his toes and ready to run. If he just had stalking speed, he would be in a rough spot. But he has enough speed and if we got the best horse, I think he can win.”

Coldwater won the first Mile in 1935 from the No. 12 post. It took 74 years for the next winner from post No. 12, when Assessment did it in 2009. Assessment was able to get a good trip under a great ride by Gallyn Mitchell, and Lucarelli hopes his horse can have the same luck. He said he would be happy if Winning Machine was running third or fourth in the backstretch.

If he gets into that spot, Winning Machine would seem to have as good of a chance as any in a deep and competitive field. In addition to a few of the top local horses, there are invaders from Canada, the East Coast, Midwest and California.

“It’s great mix of horses and it should be a good betting race,” Lucarelli said. “I don’t think you’ll see a 7-5 favorite.”

Whatever happens, Winning Machine has already cemented himself among the handful of Lucarelli’s favorite horses. He said the horse doesn’t look special, but the way he runs is.

“He is a real overachiever,” Lucarelli said. “He’s a real smooth horse, and I will tell you this: If every horse I had tried as hard as he did, I would have a lot more wins.”

$200,000 Longacres Mile field
78th running. Grade 3. Post time is 5:32 p.m. Sunday at Emerald Downs.
PPHorseJockeyTrainerWtMLComment
1Until You Juan Gutierrez David Martinez 11430Survived a draw to get into field; seems overmatched
2HoistMario Gutierrez Mike Puhich 11720Jockey looks to repeat, but horse needs to rebound
3PoliticallycorrectRussell BazeWesley Ward1217-2Clearly the horse to beat
4GladdingDennis Carr Vann Belvoir11610Good enough to contend on his best day
5Stryker PhdDebbie Hoonan Margo Lloyd 11812Late closer will need some luck
6JebricaIsaias Enriquez Jim Penney 11812A great chance with a good trip
7Golden Itiz Gerry Olguin John Sadler 1165His Southern Cal trainer is one of the best
8Tres Borrachos David G. Lopez Mike Puhich 11810Showed little last month, but don’t dismiss
9Why Not Be Perfect A. Sanguinetti Jeff Metz 11815He seems better on turf
10Herbie DAmadeo Perez Robert Gilker 1214He loves to win, but drew a tough post
11Mr. Bowling Aaron Gryder Mike Puhich 1176Tough post position, but not overmatched
12Winning Machine Javier Matias Frank Lucarelli 11715Lost by just a head last year; sentimental pick
Scott Hanson’s picks: 1, Jebrica. 2, Politicallycorrect. 3, Golden Itiz. 4, Winning Machine

Scott Hanson: 206-464-2943 or shanson@seattletimes.com

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