Defending Horse of the Meeting Assessment and track record-holder Noosa Beach head a list of 12 older handicap stars nominated to the $50,000 Budweiser Handicap on Sunday, June 20.
Run at one mile, the 15th running of the Budweiser will be an important stop on the road to the $250,000 Longacres Mile Grade 3 on Sunday, Aug. 22.
Assessment (26-7-4-3-$357,230) finished fifth in the May 16 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs, and figures to improve in his first two-turn assignment of 2010. The 6-year-old Jump Star gelding was two-for-two at the mile distance last year, scoring a neck victory over Wasserman in the Budweiser and a smashing ¾-length triumph over Awesome Gem in the Longacres Mile.
Noosa Beach (11-6-2-2-$179,340) has won both starts this season for trainer Doris Harwood. The 4-year-old Washington-bred has made a seamless transition to older company, including a spectacular one-length triumph over Winning Machine in the Seattle Handicap. In the process, Noosa Beach tied the track and state record of 1minute, 7 seconds for six furlongs while defeating a star-studded field that included the track’s last two Horse of the Meetings (Assessment and Wasserman).
Distance is the main question for Noosa Beach (6-for-6 sprints, 0-for-5 routes), but it figures to benefit Winning Machine. Also trained by Harwood, Winning Machine (15-5-4-2-$288,151) has finished second to Noosa Beach in both starts this year, but the Top 3-Year-Old of 2009 swept the Emerald and British Columbia derbies last year. Both those events were run at nine furlongs, so the 4-year-old Toccet gelding could be formidable with the added ground in the Budweiser.
Wasserman remains $3,973 shy of Captain Condo’s record of $503,285 earned at Washington racetracks, and the 8-year-old gelding would be the oldest horse to win the Budweiser.