04/13/2010 11:00PM

Claims, track start quick opening week

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AUBURN, Wash. - The Emerald Downs swap meet, er, meeting, began last week, and the claiming action was almost as fast as the racing surface.

Five horses changed hands over the three-day weekend, beginning with claims in each of the first two races on opening night. Three more followed Sunday. The prices ranged from $3,500 for Panatela, a 5-year-old mare who rejoined trainer Charles Essex's barn after spending the winter in California with Roy Lumm, to $10,000 for Jadie Cahill, a 4-year-old filly taken back by Blaine Wright after spending most of the 2009 season in Doris Harwood's barn.

The flurry of claims arrived just as Emerald Downs was introducing a new policy designed to prevent claims early in the meeting. The new rule states that any horse making its first start following a layoff of 180 days or more can race with a claiming waiver, provided it is entered at a price equal to or greater than the price at which it last started. First-time starters aren't eligible.

The rule was written to protect owners who paid winter bills for six months from losing their horse right off the bat. It proved popular with horsemen over the weekend - 22 of the 34 eligible horses (64.7 percent) ran with the claiming waiver.

* The track was exceptionally fast last week. On Friday, Skimming the Wave, a 3-year-old filly running for $7,500, blazed five furlongs in 56.20 seconds. On Saturday, mid-level claimers Honour the West ($17,500) and Destiny's Roar ($25,000) each ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.80, just .60 of a second off the track record. And on Sunday, Howmuchisit, a 3-year-old first-time starter running against $7,500 maidens, skipped five furlongs in 56.40. But while the surface was speedy, there was no discernible track bias.

* Ricky Frazier is expected to resume riding Friday after missing most of the weekend because of injuries suffered when he was thrown from his mount in the second race on opening night. Teasha, a 3-year-old maiden filly, went to her knees shortly after leaving the gate, pitching Frazier onto the track and into the path of an oncoming horse, which apparently kicked or stepped on Frazier's hip. Frazier, 45, was taken to Valley Medical Center in Kent, Wash., where he was treated for a strained hip flexor and released.

* Nine horses were entered in Friday's featured sixth race, a $12,500 claimer for 3-year-olds. First post is 6 p.m.