05/12/2009 11:00PM

Belvoir has high hopes after claim

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AUBURN, Wash. - Vann Belvoir is claiming horses like there's no tomorrow. A former leading rider at Emerald Downs and now one of the track's top trainers, Belvoir has claimed five at a meeting that's only 12 days old.

While his first four purchases were lower-level claimers, Belvoir upped the ante last Saturday when he claimed 3-year-old gelding Peaceful Reign for $30,000 on behalf of owner Jerry Maggard. Peaceful Reign was making his second start in the maiden race; he recorded a 72 Beyer Speed Figure on April 25 when a fast-closing second in his debut for trainer Jim Penney. Peaceful Reign went right to the front Saturday and rolled to a two-length victory, covering 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.40 and earning a Beyer of 67.

If all goes according to plan, Peaceful Reign will start next in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi-Cola Handicap on May 31, with the $75,000 Emerald Downs Derby in early September his ultimate goal, Belvoir said.

"I think he's a derby horse," Belvoir said. "He could be one of the better colts on the grounds."

Peaceful Reign is by Liberty Gold, a son of Crafty Prospector. Belvoir had purchased Liberty Gold in January at a dispersal sale in Pomona, Calif. The price? A mere $1,400. Liberty Gold is the only stallion standing at Belvoir's West Coast Training Center just a short drive from Emerald Downs.

But Belvoir said he and Maggard didn't claim Peaceful Reign because of the breeding. They were more impressed with how the horse handled himself in his first race, when he missed by a length to McNaughty, a well-regarded Kentucky-bred gelding trained by Frank Lucarelli.

"He drew the rail, he got a [72] Beyer, he finished strong, and he got beat by a nice horse," Belvoir said. "If you tried to buy a horse like that privately, it would probably cost you sixty or seventy thousand."

With five new horses in tow, Belvoir is doing what he can to enliven a stagnant claiming scene at Emerald Downs. From a 5-year high of 282 claims in 2005, the track's yearly total has plummeted. Only 123 horses were claimed in 2008, and with 12 claims in 12 racing days during the current 91-day meeting, the pace this year is even slower - despite Belvoir's best efforts.

"I like to play the claiming game," he said. "I mean, really, I'd like to claim one a day here."

Destinys Roar impresses in debut

The list of stakes-quality sprinters grew by one on April 26 when the 4-year-old colt Destinys Roar crushed six rivals in his career debut. Destinys Roar covered 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.60 and earned a 72 Beyer. He won by more than six lengths.

Connie Bouslaugh trains Destinys Roar for owner Dean Street, who paid $38,000 for the California-bred son of Roar at the 2006 Washington summer sale. Originally under Penney's care, Destinys Roar was turned out at 2 and then underwent stifle surgery at 3 that prevented him from racing in 2008. Street transferred his horses to Bouslaugh this year, which is how she landed a potential star in the making.

If Destinys Roar seemed familiar to the trainer, it's because Bouslaugh had his half-brother Castello d'Oro several years ago. Castello d'Oro recorded 10 victories, all sprinting, in 31 career starts. Another half-brother, Jack Hes Tops, is a stakes-placed sprinter in California who has earned more than $200,000. Destinys Roar's dam is Castle Bet, by Peterhof.

Bouslaugh said Destinys Roar would make his second start Sunday in a second-level allowance race. After that, his performance will dictate the company he keeps.

"He's classy and he'll do anything you want him to do - slow him down or speed him up," she said. "I have high hopes that he'll be even better going a mile."

Repp leaves Emerald with pair of wins

After deciding to switch her base to Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley, Ariz., jockey Kate Repp left Emerald Downs on a high note last Saturday, winning aboard Palanca ($10.60) and Red Redding ($7.20) with her final two mounts.

Repp, 27, said a fresh start in Arizona would give her a better chance as a full-time rider. She had worked almost exclusively for trainer Charles Essex at Emerald Downs, assisting in his training operations, galloping, and working horses, and then riding them in the afternoon. She said that arrangement had run its course, at least for now.

"I've galloped too long here, got hurt too many times," she said. "And we don't have as much live racing stock as we usually do."

While she'll ride primarily for trainer Bill Bainum at Yavapai, Repp said she hopes to get into as many top barns as possible. If it doesn't work out, she might return to school to prepare for a career change. Or perhaps return home to Emerald Downs. A Seattle native, she was raised in Auburn and attended nearby Auburn High School. Nothing is written in stone.

"I change my mind as often as I change my venue," she said.