AUBURN, Washington – Barbadian jockey Rocco Bowen won a stretch duel with hot favourite Sippin Fire to snatch the feature US$50 000 Muckleshoot Derby yesterday, and notch his fifth added-money win of the Emerald Downs season.
The pair caught impressive Canadian import Weekend Wizard with a furlong to run and reached the wire three-quarters of a length clear in a time of one minute, 48.54 seconds.
With the win, the brilliant 29-year-old Bowen also collected his 30th stakes win at the Pacific Northwest racetrack, moving into a tie for fifth on the all-time list with current rider Javier Matias.
For Sippin Fire, the victory was his third stakes win this season and he will now take aim at the $150 000 British Columbia Derby at Hastings on September 8.
If he sweeps the Muckleshoot, BC Derby and the Getaway Stakes on September 23, Sippin Fire will earn a $100 000 bonus.
Going a mile and eighth for the three-year-olds in race seven, Weekend Wizard produced the early fractions, completing 22.79 seconds for the quarter and 46 flat for the half-mile, under pressure from rank outsider Freiburg.
Bowen sat Sippin Fire nearly eight lengths off the pace in sixth as Argosy Fleet and Smoothee Lee stalked the leaders.
Weekend Wizard finally rid himself of Freiburg at the three-quarter pole, opening up a nearly two-length on the field and installing himself as favourite to take the event.
However, Bowen brought Sippin Fire with a grand run, rallying the Washington-bred chestnut gelding of the final turn and storming through the stretch to edge Weekend Wizard in a heated duel.
“That was two nice horses duking it out down the lane. Sippin Fire won it, he’s a great horse, and it’s off to Canada,” said Bowen afterwards.
The success was one of four on the nine-race card for Bowen as the two-time reigning Emerald Downs champion strengthened his claims for a third consecutive title.
He had earlier won the curtain-raiser with 8-5 choice Iknowyourface, beating the three-year-old and upward fillies and mares by a length over a mile.
Bowen initially stalked the pace set by Wasach Wonder before taking the three-year-old filly Iknowyourface to the front at the three-eighths marker and holding well in the lane.
His second win came in a 6-1/2 furlong sprint with Whistling Rose, when he guided the three-year-old bay filly to a handsome three-length score over the three-year-old and upward fillies mares in race five.
And Bowen returned in race six over six furlongs with favourite Lucky Cleric, making all the running with the three-year-old chestnut gelding to beat the three-year-olds and upward by a length.
Bowen tops the standings with 70 wins with Kevin Orozco 24 back in second place.
On Saturday, veteran Barbadian jockey Quincy Welch won twice but it was Jamaican Shamaree Muir who stole the honours when he captured the feature CAN$50 000 Duchess of York Handicap at Northlands Park.
Aboard 3-1 choice Tara’s Way in a mile and sixteenth trip, Muir stalked before reeling in pacesetter C U At Eau Claire and taking the wire 1-1/4 lengths clear in a time of one minute, 45.94 seconds.
Five-to-four chance Anstrum was second while favourite Sail On By finished a disappointing third.
Winless in four previous rides on the day’s eight-race card, Muir made his outing in race seven count as he got the better of the three-year-olds and upward.
C U At Eau Claire, with seven-time reigning champion jockey Rico Walcott of Barbados aboard, made the early running as they produced splits of 23.64 seconds for the quarter and 47.71 seconds for the half-mile.
Muir chased with Tara’s Way from second while the trio of Sail on By, Port Protection and Saveitforarainyday all stalked.
When C U At Eau Claire faded, Muir pushed Tara’s Way up to take the lead at the five-sixteenth pole with Sail On By challenging at the top of the stretch.
However, Muir got the best out of the five-year-old bay mare, managing to hold off the dangerous Sail On By in the stretch run.
Welch, meanwhile, a multiple-time champion with Northlands Park titles in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2008, also grabbed some of the spotlight.
He raised the curtain on the day when he combined with 7-1 chance Lady Rorschach to beat the three-year-old and upward maiden fillies and mares by a length in a 6-1/2 furlong sprint.
Welch was in the winners’ enclosure again in race five over a mile when he made nearly all the running with 5-2 bet Dance Mariah to dispose of the three-year-old and upward fillies and mares by four lengths.