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Monday, June 18, 2012 - Page updated at 09:00 p.m.
Noosa Beach too unruly, gets pulled out of starting gate | Emerald Downs
By Scott Hanson
Seattle Times staff
The stirring stretch duel Sunday could have gone down as one of the top races of the year at Emerald Downs.
But on a day when Winning Machine, a 6-year-old gelding, beat Rainier Ice by a half-length to win the $50,000 Budweiser Handicap, it was what happened just before the race that everyone was talking about.
Noosa Beach entered the starting gate as not only the odds-on favorite but also with the mantle of being the most accomplished horse in the history of the track.
But he never left the gate. With his stablemate, Aaron the Baron, resisting getting into the stall next to him, Noosa Beach suddenly got fractious, nearly flipping over in the gate and throwing jockey Leslie Mawing.
The crowd, which had begun roaring as the horses were loading, went silent.
The veterinarian scratched Noosa Beach, and Mawing made the long walk back to the jockeys' room before the race.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, my disappointment is a 10," Mawing said soon after his horse was scratched. "He just got unruly. I landed on my back. I'm pretty sore. They had no choice but to scratch him when that happened."
But the races go on, and Winning Machine was ready.
Top horses take advantage of good fortune, and Winning Machine did it again Sunday. He settled right behind early leader Rainier Ice, moved up to challenge entering the stretch and the two dueled in a prolonged drive until Winning Machine finally edged a bit clear.
Winning Machine's time was 1 minute, 34.44 seconds. He paid $5 to win. Jebrica, who also was 3-2, was the slightest of favorites, and finished fourth.
"We are really happy how it turned out, but my heart goes out to Team Harwood (Doris Harwood trains Noosa Beach for her husband, Jeff)," said Winning Machine owner Raymond Kwik. "It's just too bad that Noosa Beach couldn't participate in this race. I do hope he comes back because we need him for a healthy competition."
Doris Harwood watched her other trainee, Aaron the Baron, who finished last. Hours after the race, she said Noosa Beach was fine and suffered no apparent injuries other than a slight scrape.
Jockey Gallyn Mitchell, who rode Rainier Ice, said it was too bad that Noosa Beach had to be scratched. Mitchell rode Noosa Beach last year to four wins.
"He's our Zenyatta (the champion mare who gained national attention two years ago)," he said. "He's done everything you could ask for from a horse in the Northwest. I said before the race, 'If my horse doesn't win, I hope he does.' "
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