08/14/2009 12:00AM

Elusive Horizon, Holy Nova rematched


AUBURN, Wash. - After their thrilling finish in the Boeing Handicap resulted in the first dead heat for win in Emerald Downs stakes history, Elusive Horizon and Holy Nova renew their rivalry Sunday in the $100,000 Emerald Distaff on the Longacres Mile undercard.

The principal players are the same, but a few new wrinkles could alter the outcome. At nine furlongs, the Emerald Distaff is 110 yards longer than the Boeing Handicap, and the presence of speedy Northern California shipper Christmas Ship could test Elusive Horizon's resolve on the front end.

A gate-to-wire winner of the one-mile King County Handicap in early July, Elusive Horizon led every step of the way in the Boeing Handicap on July 26 before yielding in the final stride. If she wins Sunday, she would cement her status as the top filly or mare on the grounds. She also would remain unbeaten in five starts around two turns. Trained by Doris Harwood for Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms, Elusive Horizon has won 7 of 13 starts, all at Emerald Downs, and earned $186,715.

Breaking from the rail under Juan Gutierrez, Elusive Horizon will carry high weight of 122 pounds, with Holy Nova and Christmas Ship next at 121 in the field of seven. Gadget Queen, who won the 6 1/2-furlong Washington Legislators Handicap in June, was assigned 119 pounds, followed by Screaminleapofaith (116) and Hastings shipper Blue Sky Holiday (115). Shezaluckypenny, claimed recently for $2,500 at Grants Pass, was entered in the Distaff for no apparent reason. She'll carry 110.

Holy Nova, who won the 1 1/16-mile Vancouver Sun Handicap at Hastings in her first start of 2009, does her best running from just off the pace. Adaptable to just about any circumstance, she has won races at seven different tracks during a 24-race career that has generated $376,642 in earnings. Trained in Canada by Troy Taylor, she is being handled at Emerald by Terry Gillihan. Her regular rider, Mario Gutierrez, will commute from Vancouver for Sunday's race.

Christmas Ship, a stalking-type runner who won the 1 1/16-mile Alameda County Handicap at Pleasanton in her last start, will make her second appearance at Emerald Downs. She chased Elusive Horizon around the track last August in the $100,000 Washington Oaks, finishing 1 3/4 lengths back in second. She is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who saddled Distaff winners in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Frank Alvarado, scheduled to ride Hollendorfer's Crafty Power in the Longacres Mile, has the call.