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Strategy in play for second weekend at Downs

GRANTS PASS — Finding the right race for some horses can be a challenge. Trainer Mary Boyle pondered the problem while she watched her 7-year-old mare Belle Chippendale get a new set of shoes Thursday.

"We thought she was a sprinter when we got her, but she turned out to be a miler,” Boyle said. “Last year she won a couple of mile races at Portland meadows — up there she was a contender.”

One-mile races are rare at Grants Pass, so Boyle has entered Belle Chippendale in today's Race 6. It goes 5 1/2 furlongs, which is 2 1/2 furlongs shy of what Belle prefers.

Boyle shook her head in resignation.

"She's a pretty old thing, and nice too,” Boyle said. “All our horses are nice. They may be slow but they're nice."

After finding the right race, or anyhow the almost-right race, trainers face a second dilemma: finding the right jockey.

"Rachel Goodgame is on her,” Boyle said. “She rode Belle at Burns, so she knows the horse.”

Sometimes, finding any jockey may be difficult here, where there are only eight of them on the grounds.

Trainer John Harris is proposing a solution to this shortage that has worked elsewhere.

"We should be like the Canadians,” Harris said. “They pay to bring in Jamaican jockeys. They take care of them all season long while they ride in the bush leagues, then send them home."

According to Harris, there are 90 jockeys in Jamaica but only one racetrack, so "they're eager to come."

Boyle liked Harris's proposal.

"What I'd really like, though, is to go to Jamaica,” said Boyle, a principal who retired to what she thought would be a life of leisure and play among horses. I haven't had a day off in a long time.”

A final note on Belle Chippendale. If you wager on her and lose, you still win. Dutch Bros. is giving away coupons for free drinks to all Race 6 bettors. The Boersmas put their money where your mouth is.

TRACK TIDBITS: Ruben Camacho is a longtime jockey at the Downs known for his exuberance in the winner's circle. On Thursday he was occupied with his smart phone as he lay on bales of straw, his feet propped improbably above his head.

"I'm happy here," said Camacho, who bounded up from his contortions and began talking as fast as he rides. "My weight is perfect. I got nice horses — the favorites, the long shots — I don't care. I love the horses, the people, the meet."

Camacho posted two wins and came close in another six races the first weekend. Today, he will ride Uncork It in the William "Bill" Selvester Memorial. The horse's previous five races have been on sloppy tracks. Look for him to fire.

After two days of racing, Eduardo Gutierrez-Sosa is leading the jockeys with five wins, followed by Jose Guerrero and Jake Samuels with four and Camacho with two. Last year's top jockey, Kassie Guglielmino, has four close seconds. She's due.

Trainer Hector Magallanes entered an intimidating 18 horses last weekend and won six times. He's running only three horses today and three Sunday.

Racing Secretary Shorty Martin has assembled several large fields for the second weekend of racing. They include eight horses in the Southern Belle and seven in the Red Truitt Memorial, both Sunday.

Gates open today at 11:30 a.m. with post time at 1 p.m.

Reach Dan Guthrie at guthrie23@centurylink.net