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Saturday, July 7, 2012 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.
Elusive Noise runs up against bad luck, bad start
By Scott Hanson
Seattle Times staff
AUBURN — Horse racing sure can be a maddening sport.
All the best-laid plans and weeks of training can go kaput with a couple of seconds of bad luck on race day.
That sums up the last race for Elusive Noise, the 4-year-old filly The Seattle Times is following this season. Trainer Tom Wenzel sends Elusive Noise back into action Sunday in the $50,000 Boeing Handicap at a mile.
If Wenzel wasn't even-tempered, what happened to Elusive Noise at the start of the Washington Legislators Handicap on June 10 could drive him nuts.
Elusive Noise broke from the No. 7 post and had entered the race in top form, having lost by a head to Class Included in the Hastings Handicap in May.
In the June race, her chances were over almost as soon as the race began. Special Holiday, breaking from the No. 6 post, veered out at the break. Stephanie Plum broke inward from the No. 8 post. Elusive Noise got bumped and squeezed, and the immediate goal for jockey Gallyn Mitchell was to keep Elusive Noise from falling.
Instead of being on the lead, as she prefers, Elusive Noise was forced back. Elusive Noise's race was basically over before Mitchell got her settled. She finished seventh, beaten by 11 ¾ lengths, while another front-runner, E Z Kitty, got a perfect trip and held off heavily favored Class Included for the win.
"You hopefully can throw the race out from a training standpoint," Wenzel said. "She tends to be a front-running filly, and when she gets squeezed at the start and can't get close, it kind of changes the dynamics of her race. It was unfortunate, but it happened."
When a trainer's horse runs poorly without an apparent excuse, everything gets re-evaluated, from the training regimen to the level of competition the horse is facing. Elusive Noise's excuse was obvious.
Wenzel didn't want the bad experience to linger. He made sure with a 6-furlong workout from a starting gate June 29.
"We let her pop out clean," Wenzel said. "We tried to prepare her for a better experience. She finished the workout even stronger than I thought she might.
"You want her thinking that she wants to get out of there good, and everything went perfectly in the gate workout. You just hope that next time the horses around her are cleaner from the gate. But things happen at the gate. It's just part of racing."
Mitchell knew what to do after the poor start, because Wenzel tells riders how to handle that situation.
"Even with horses that like the front end, I say if anything happens at the gate that doesn't go well, just take it easy for a while and don't rush them up," he said. "In those situation, you don't want to use up so much of your horse. Gallyn did the right thing. She naturally wanted to make a little move into the race, but it just wasn't her day because of the gate incident."
Elusive Noise will face a big challenge Sunday even with a good break. For Elusive Noise to get the early lead, where she is most comfortable, she will have to outrun two other speedy horses, E Z Kitty and Carrabelle Harbor. Before this season, Wenzel worked on getting Elusive Noise to rate, meaning pulling back when the pace is too fast and coming from behind. But it's not something she seems to like.
"I've got this filly figured out the best that I can, and she needs to be forwardly placed to run her best," Wenzel said. "She's proved to me enough that she's not an off-the-pace type of horse, especially against this type of company. My tactics are not going to change. We're not going to overdo trying to rate her. We're going to let her run her race.
"If she isn't the fastest horse, she's really close. It's going to be a lively front end, that's for sure."
Because of that, the Boeing Handicap seems to set up well for Class Included, who has the ability to make up ground late in a race. But Wenzel is on a great roll. Two weeks ago, he won both ends of a stakes doubleheader and was 4 for 4 on the day. He leads Emerald trainers with four stakes victories this season, and Elusive Noise's one stakes victory came last year at a mile, the same distance as Sunday's race.
"What happened to us last time could happen to any of the other horses, so I will tell (Mitchell) to let her run away from the gate and then you've got to make your own decisions from then on," Wenzel said. "Hopefully she runs a lot better than last time. We know with all the speed in the race, we have our work cut out with her. She's ready, it's just a matter of all the pieces falling together to give her a chance."
Scott Hanson: firstname.lastname@example.org
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