04/19/2007 11:00PM

Armstrong going full force this meet


AUBURN, Wash. - Several new outfits will be racing at Emerald Downs this season, but most are not strangers to local fans.

Trainer Janet Armstrong, for example, introduced herself to Washington racing last season when she brought Sophie's Trophy down from Hastings to win the Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies. She returned with Outrageous Limit, who ran seventh in the Tacoma Handicap, and again with Sophie's Trophy, who finished third in the Washington Oaks.

Armstrong is back in force this year, as she brought her entire stable to Washington.

"I have 12 stalls on the grounds, and I have another 21 at Pegasus Training Center," she said. "My plan is to ship them back and fourth."

Armstrong said she has been pleased with the conditions at Pegasus, Mark Dedomenico's state-of-the-art facility in Redmond, Wash.

"The artificial track there is just beautiful," she said. "The footing is beautiful, and all the horses I have trained there are sound. I had 28 horses there for most of the winter, and I'm hoping that will help me to get off to a fast start."

Armstrong had one of her stakes horses, the 3-year-old filly Zaylaway, entered in a $50,000 optional claiming event on Friday's opening night card. She said Sophie's Trophy will probably make her first appearance at the meet in the $45,000 Hastings Park Handicap for fillies and mares on May 20.

Bonde brings 12 horses to meet

Northern California mainstay Jeff Bonde hasn't had a starter here in recent seasons, but he has been a fixture at the local yearling sales for several years. The trainer has sent a dozen horses, including five Washington-breds he bought at auction, to Emerald this season along with assistant trainer Miguel Carranza.

"Jeff will be back and forth between here and Northern California, but I'll be here for the whole meeting," Carranza said. "I'm looking forward to racing here. The horses got here last Saturday, and they have settled in nicely. We brought all our own grooms and exercise riders, so that made everything go very smoothly."

Carranza said the most accomplished horse in his local string is Bay Meadows allowance winner Wellingtons Arch, a 5-year-old daughter of Arch. He said that may not remain the case for long.

"I'm supposed to be getting three more horses that Jeff wants to try in stakes up here," he said.

Bonde has trained the graded stakes winners Green Team and Untouched Talent in recent seasons, and he still trains Cinderella Liberty, who won the 2005 Diane Kem Handicap at Emerald Downs for trainer Bud Klokstad.

Blaine Wright out on his own

Blaine Wright, the son of trainer Richard Wright, has been a familiar face at Emerald Downs since the track opened in 1995, and he was a fixture at Longacres before that. The younger Wright served as trainer Grant Forster's top assistant at Emerald the last two seasons, but he struck out on his own last fall and he will train horses under his own name at this meeting.

"I'm really looking forward to racing in my hometown," he said. "I had a good winter at Turf Paradise. I won 10 races down there and I've got some fit horses to race here."

Wright said he has 23 horses, with the headliner being Sabertooth, a winner of the Longacres Mile and the world record holder for 6 1/2 furlongs (1:13).

"He's 9 now and he's probably not the horse he once was, but he is sure fun to have around the barn," Wright said. "He is just coming up to his first work, so he is still a month or more away from racing."

Chambers to return to Emerald

Not yet on the grounds but expected to arrive soon is trainer Mike Chambers, who is familiar to veteran local fans as one of the top trainers at Longacres, where he developed such stars as Hilco Scamper and Soft Copy. Chambers saddled Fancy Stockings to run third in the first race ever run at Emerald, the 1995 U.S. Bank Stakes, but he has raced in California and in the Southwest since then. He is campaigning at Turf Paradise, where he has won with 15 of 48 starters (31 percent) since the first of the year.

"He's planning to be here after Turf Paradise closes on Kentucky Derby Day," trainer Frank Lucarelli said. "I have a couple of his horses in my barn already, and I entered one of them for him [Wings of Justice] on Saturday."

Chambers will have 16 stalls for his first full season of racing at Emerald.

Queenledo set for final season

Trainer Tim McCanna said Queenledo, who was named top older filly or mare at last year's meeting after earning top 2-year-old filly honors here in 2004 and the award for top 3-year-old filly in 2005, will launch her 5-year-old campaign here in the six-furlong Hastings Park Handicap on May 20.

"I had hoped to run her in the allowance prep race this Sunday, but she got a little bug and I had to stop on her for a few days," McCanna said. "She is fine, though. She has been training really well, and I'm looking forward to another good year with her."

McCanna said Queenledo will be retired after this season.

"Our plan is to breed her next year," he said. "I'll really miss her when she is gone. I've never had a horse who tries so hard. She has been feeding a lot of those others down in my barn, so maybe she knows the pressure she is under."