Jockey Leslie Mawing back in the saddle at Emerald Downs | Horse Racing

Leslie Mawing, who captured his first Emerald Downs riding title with 129 wins in 2011, will return from Golden Gate Fields and attempt to win a second straight crown in Auburn.

Currently fifth with 31 wins at Golden Gate, the 38-year-old Mawing will return to the Northwest poised to become only the fourth jockey to win back-to-back Emerald Downs titles. The South African native is ninth all-time with 398 wins at Emerald Downs, including his spectacular 2011 meet in which he drew off to a 29-length victory over runner-up Juan Gutierrez, 129-100, in the riders standings.

The 2012 Emerald Downs season begins Friday, April 13 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 23, an 81-day stand highlighted by the 77th running of the $200,000 Longacres Mile (G3) on Sunday, Aug. 19.

In addition to Mawing, several other top riders from last year appear to be headed back for another go-round. In fact, the track's top nine riders in 2011*Mawing, Juan Gutierrez, Joe Crispin, Gallyn Mitchell, Pedro Terrero, Deborah Hoonan, Javier Matias, Leonel Camacho-Flores and Jose Zunino*are all expected to ride this season.

Agent Vito Lucarelli said that in addition to Mawing and Terrero, he would bring up a third rider from Northern California that he expects would "contend with Mawing for this year's title chase."

The track's all-time leading woman rider Jennifer Whitaker also has been galloping several horses daily for trainer Howard Belvoir. Deborah Hoonan, second all-time amongst women riders at Emerald Downs, and Portland Meadows riding sensation Eliska Kubinova will make for a strong female contingent of riders at Emerald Downs in 2012.
Last year's Lindy Award winner Lance Bullock has decided to step away from competitive riding at this time and will concentrate on his exercise riding duties.


Coming off perhaps his finest season at Emerald Downs, Tom Wenzel knew it would be difficult to duplicate a 2011 campaign that saw the veteran trainer win 27 races while clicking at an astronomical 31.7 percent clip.

Turns out, the off-season isn't even complete and Wenzel already served up a terrific encore. On Valentine's Day, Wenzel's wife Melissa delivered the couple's first human foal, a baby boy named Lane Thomas that has the stoic conditioner grinning ear-to-ear. Now, the trainer has a new alarm clock to roust him from sleep for his training duties at Emerald Downs.

"I'm a deep sleeper but it hasn't mattered because he isn't much of a crier," Wenzel said of the family addition.

It's a long way off, but perhaps Wenzel will someday pass the training torch to Lane Thomas? "I won't put any pressure on him," said the 46-year-old Wenzel, "but I hope he gets into the (sport of horse racing."

As for Thoroughbreds, Wenzel appears well stocked for another rousing season in Auburn. Stakes-winning fillies Elusive Noise and Exclusive Diva are both back in training, and the barn has been fortified by the addition of some fancy pedigreed runners bred by stallions like Tapit, Curlin and Bernardini, most of them owned by Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms..

"I had a great season last year, and I think with the horses I have this year, I might be able to do it again," Wenzel said.


Make Emerald Downs your destination on Saturday, March 31 to watch and wager on the illustrious Dubai World Cup card, hosted by Meydan Racecourse and headlined by the $10 million Dubai World Cup for older horses. The Bob Baffert-trained Game On Dude is expected to head the field for the world's richest Thoroughbred race.

Emerald Downs will provide advanced wagering all day Friday on races 2 through 9 and will operate its regular Saturday simulcast schedule with wagering available on races 7 to 9. The Quarter Chute Cafe will be open for wagering at 7 a.m.

With eight races worth an aggregate $27 million in purses, the Dubai World Cup card has traditionally attracted some of the top horses from around the globe.

NOTES: Trainer Blaine Wright, who split his training duties between Emerald Downs and Golden Gate last season, said Monday he plans to run the majority of his horses at EmD this season. Zayda, a double stakes-winner last season, was seen jogging Monday morning at EmD*Top Apprentice of 2008 Matt Hagerty currently rides at Beulah Park, where he has one win in three mounts*Trainer Doris Harwood gave a positive report on multiple stakes-winner Margo's Gift who retired to become a show horse. "The lady who trains him told me that he's one year ahead of all the other horses," Harwood said. "He's always been such a smart horse that I'm not surprised."

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