(Auburn, WA) The 2021 Stakes schedule got underway Thursday night highlighted with the first Longacres Mile prep race, the 50-thousand dollar Budweiser Stakes. The field of 8 ran as the 7th race on the 8 race card. The field set to go 6-furlongs would then suffer a late scratch that truly may have changed the the entire make-up of the race and didn’t hurt the chances of the 2nd favorite in this contest, Papa’s Golden Boy.
There were two entries from the powerful Blaine Wright barn with morning-line favorite Baja Sur with Franklin Ceballos up and finished as the odds-on 3-5 choice was hoping to stablemate Windribbon would be able to pressure front runner Papa’s Golden Boy. But Windribbon got worked up at the gate and was a late Stewards scratch basically leaving the front end all to Papa.
Julien Couton was aboard Papa’s Golden Boy for the 2nd time for trainer Vince Gibson and owners Gary, Deborah, Jeff and Peyton Lusk and was a bit concerned with Windribbon putting pressure on Papa but when he scratched he knew he was in great position to control the pace and would be very difficult to run down. The public that had been betting Windribbon seemed to jump to Papa as well as his odds plummeted from 5-2 down to 7-5 before the gates opened.
When the 6 furlong race started Papa’s Golden Boy flew out of the 1 hole and quickly took a length and half lead over Baja Sur who was forced to stay closer than he likely wanted too. Take Charge Deputy the Jorge Rosales trainee with Irving Orozco in the saddle was 3rd, 2 and half behind but Couton was able to slow Papa down a bit with the quarter time in 22:19. Although his 1st race was 5 and a half furlongs he popped the first quarter in 21:43 and covered the half in 43:57 while hitting the half at 44:21 in the Bud Stakes. At that point it was over and Couton got Papa to mind his business and even though it appeared both Baja Sur and Take Charge Deputy were making a move they trailed by 4 at the top of the stretch and Papa’s Golden Boy finished with a comfortable 3 length win to lead the boat race from start to finish.
We had a chance to talk with Julien Couton after his final ride of the day and he said the key was being able to control pace and not letting Papa get distracted…
Julien Couton on Papa’s Golden Boy
Papa’s Golden Boy finished the 6 furlongs in a blazing 1:07.71 and returned $4.80 on the $2 win. Baja Sur was 2nd, Take Charge Deputy ran 3rd and Unmachable closed from last to complete the Superfecta. Papa’s Golden Boy added $27,500 to his bankroll which now exceeds 87k. Papa is a Washington bred by Harbor the Gold and out of Brookie Girl by Proud Citizen. He was bred by Bar C Racing Stables.
The Bud was the 2nd Stakes of the day the 1st Stakes of the season was in the 6th race the $50,000 Hastings Stakes for 3-year-old and up fillies and mares and all eyes were on the odds on favorite Daffodil Sweet at 4-5. The 4-year-old was making her 2nd start of the season and 6th lifetime start after winning her prep race by 3 lengths over Squan’s Kingdom who was also in this race as the longest shot on the board at 14-1.
The field of 8 was reduced to 7 with a scratch of Cascade Dancer and they were set to go 6-furlongs over a very fast track. Daffodil Sweet trained by Chris Stenslie sported a 4 wins and 1 2nd from 5 lifetime starts record including a win in last year’s Coca Cola Stakes and a 2nd in the Oaks. Daffodil Sweet had made an impact on the local bettors after her dazzling maiden win in her first start at 17-1. The well-backed favorite though was pretty much done at the gate though as the front-runner who has only 2 calls in past performance of 2nd and not in first hesitated at the break then hopped and found herself sitting last. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez was aboard and got her to settle and began making some progress up the back-stretch but was forced wide and finished a distant last.
Meantime, sitting way out in post 8 the Tim and Sue Spooner owned Ima Happy Cat is also one that likes to be on the lead but has shown can sit just off the pace as well so a bit more versatile and experienced with 24 lifetime starts coming into the Hastings. Julien Couton would find himself on the lead which surprised him a little bit figuring Daffodil sweet out of the 6 hole would be out there and he wanted to sit just off her flank.
But when there was no one in front he immediately decided to let her go. Couton says she was well prepped by trainer Dan Markle and they had worked her on June 10 where she tossed up a bullet for 5 furlongs. She quickly drew off by 3 lengths, extended that with a powerful move around the turn for a 5 length lead and easily held off a closing Squan’s Kingdom who again ran 2nd but this time as the longest shot on the board.
Couton told us that Ima Happy Cat was wound up tight and she did not disappoint ripping through the race in times of 21.89, 44.10,56-flat and an eye-catching 1:08.50 final time…
Julien Couton on Ima Happy Cat
Ima Happy Cat was the 9-2 3rd choice and returned $11.60 on the $2 win. Squan’s Kingdom from trainer Candy Cryderman’s barn for owner John Parker ran a courageous race with jockey Joree Scriver. Scriver was an apprentice last year and has made her mark here at Emerald and at Grants Pass. Scriver told Cryderman that Squan got into trouble and she had to go around some tiring horses and didn’t find a good lane to run until late and Cat had flown the coop. Squan finished fast a little more than 2 lengths behind and a length in front of 7-1 Killarney Lass who ran even with Heriberto Martinez aboard. The 2nd favorite, Golden Gate shipper for Blaine Wright Coco Bee was 4th and never threatened.
Ima Happy Cat the 6-year-old gray mare, picked up $27,500 for the win pushing her career earnings to nearly $260,000, she is now 8-5-3 from 27 career starts and is a California bred by Smiling Tiger, out of Infernal McGoon by Wekiva Springs. The breeder is Dale Mahlum.
This was a big day for Couton and it nearly didn’t happen for him. In the 5th race, just before the Hastings, Couton was aboard #2 Guardingthemoney set to go a mile. Guardingthemoney got worked up and flung Couton off before loading into the gate and Couton just missed hitting the inside rail and post. Couton tells us about this incident that nearly cost him 2 Stakes victories…
Julien Couton on getting thrown off in race 5
Guardingthemoney was scratched from the race and not injured in the incident. Racing resumes on Sunday with another 2 Stakes races set to be contested in the Auburn and Seattle Stakes. Couton will ride Golden Gate shipper and 5-2 2nd favorite Big Duke in the Auburn, the 6th race of the 9 race card and in the 8th, the Seattle Stakes he’s on 6-1 Frisco Frills for longtime owner/trainer Cliff Balcom. First race post time on Sunday is 2:30.