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Whitaker back in the saddle at Emerald Downs | Horse Racing

After nearly a five-month absence, Emerald Downs’ all-time leading female jockey is back in action.

Jennifer Whitaker still has a way to go before she begins riding in races, but she’s back exercising horses and hopes to resume her riding career soon. For now, she’s jogging and galloping horses for trainer Howard Belvoir.

“It feels great to be here,” Whitaker said. “I started riding again last Friday. I need to see how sore my shoulder feels after riding some horses.”

Whitaker sustained a broken collarbone before the season, an ailment that has sidelined her the first half of the Emerald Downs 2011 season. No. 1 among females with 371 wins and 16 stakes scores, Whitaker holds a narrow margin over the hard-charging Deborah Hoonan-Trujillo, who has 347 victories and 11 stakes wins. Whitaker also is the only female rider to win the Longacres Mile, guiding the Washington-bred gelding Wasserman to a stunning victory in 2008 en route to Horse of the Meeting honors.

Wasserman coincidentally ended a 13-race drought last Sunday with a come-from behind victory for his first score since the 2009 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic with Whitaker riding.

During Whitaker’s absence, Hoonan-Trujillo has been terrific. The Bonney Lake native is projected to crush her previous season record of 68 wins in 2005. Her 40 wins—two stakes races—this season have narrowed the gap considerably between female riders.

A speedy return for Whitaker could hold Hoonan-Trujillo at bay, but the 11-year veteran still hasn’t fully tested the healed collarbone.

“She’s just jogging a few horses for me a day,” Belvoir said. “She’s galloped one horse, and she could work one tomorrow. She still hasn’t gotten on Wasserman yet, because he’s a strong horse to hold.”

In other jockey news, Troy Stillwell said Thursday that he would have to wait another six weeks before his doctor can clear him to ride. The 45-year-old Stillwell cracked a vertebra in March during a Quarter horse race at Portland Meadows. Stillwell said despite feeling pain when twisting his torso the progress seems to be steady. Stillwell finished seventh in the 2010 jockey standings with 46 wins and needs only seven more victories for 100 career wins at Emerald Downs.

“The doctor told me that I am getting better, but nobody really knows when I’ll be able to return.” Stillwell said. “I want to ride, and I want to go golfing, too.”

SPECIAL SCREENING OF “BUCK” TO AID PRODIGIOUS FUND

The Grand Cinemas in Tacoma (6606 South Fawcett Ave) will host a special screening for Emerald Downs’ employees and horsemen of the acclaimed documentary Buck on Monday, July 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets priced at $20 are available at customer service (253-288-7711) with all proceeds going to the Prodigious Fund for retired Thoroughbreds.

A richly textured and visually stunning film, Buck follows the life of renowned horse whisperer Buck Brannaman, from his abusive childhood to his phenomenally successful approach to horses. More information on the movie is available at buckthefilm.com.

Following the movie, Emerald Downs will host an after party at The Hub (203 Tacoma Ave. South) in Tacoma’s famed Stadium District.

NOTES: Week 12 Honors—Jockey-Joe Crispin (8 wins); Trainer-Tim McCanna (5 wins) Owner-Suanne Hallman (2 wins); Groom- Bonifacio Mora (Howard Belvoir)…Doris Harwood said she was pleased with the :49.20-breeze turned in by 2010 Horse of the  Meeting Noosa Beach Thursday morning. Regular rider Gallyn Mitchell was aboard for the workout.

Mitchell said Thursday that he would ride Couldabenthewhisky in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap over Rainier Ice, who finished first in the June 26 Pepsi Cola Handicap but was disqualified and placed fourth. Last year’s Top Two-Year-Old Couldabenthewhisky has worked twice—including a six-furlong breeze in 1:13.40 on July 4—since missing the Pepsi Cola while recovering from a sore foot.

Trainer Valorie Lund said Thursday that Washington-bred Atta Boy Roy will likely make his next start in the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (1) on Aug. 7 at Saratoga Race Course. The 6-year-old riddling, third in the Iowa Sprint on June 24, will work a half-mile Sunday at Canterbury Park, where Lund is currently stabled.

Hollywood Harbor earned a career-high 93 Beyer Speed figure for his 5-¾-length victory Monday, in which the 4-year-old ran the fastest 6-½ furlongs of the meeting, 1:13.80. Trainer Chris Stenslie is considering the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) on Sunday, Aug. 21 for the 4-year-old gelding…Chu and I received a 60 and Youtheprizeandi a 57 for their respective triumphs Monday in the NWSS Strong Ruler and NWSS Knights Choice Stakes.

Wasserman received a 77 Beyer for his three-quarter-length win over Zagreus in Sunday’s feature, and his all-time EmD earnings mark is up to $528,017…Jockeys Vicky Baze and Gary Baze are taking some time off from riding but will be at Emerald Downs on Saturday, Aug. 20 for Vicky’s induction into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame.

Sunday marks the half-way point of the 82-day meeting, and both Leslie Mawing and Crispin are on pace to win their first riding titles at Emerald Downs. Each begins the week with 52 Thoroughbred wins and on-pace for their first 100-win seasons at Emerald Downs... McCanna posted a 5-for-13 week and is beginning to take aim on a fifth straight training title and 11th in 16 years at Emerald Downs. Howard Belvoir, however, begins Week 13 with a 25-23 lead on McCanna and on pace to top his personal best 50 wins set in 2009.

McCanna needs seven wins to become the first trainer with 800 wins at Emerald Downs.

Equine Art 2011 will be open during racing hours from July 8-10. The art show will be displayed on track level, adjacent to the Washington Racing Hall of Fame, with all art available for purchase.

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