08/13/2010 10:49AM

Emerald Derby features classic matchup


AUBURN, Wash. – Nine horses were entered to run in Sunday’s $75,000 Emerald Derby. Five have a legitimate chance and two stand out. When the dust settles Sunday evening, it’s likely either Newfound Man or Posse Power will have clinched honors as the top 3-year-old at Emerald Downs.

Newfound Man, who survived life-threatening injuries last July to emerge as the Northwest’s fastest 3-year-old, and Posse Power, who finished a head behind Newfound Man in their last meeting, offer strongly contrasting styles. Newfound Man boasts speed in abundance; Posse Power prefers to sit back and launch a powerful late move. Their speed-vs.-closer drama will play out over nine furlongs in the derby, and both horses are bred to relish the distance.

Newfound Man is by Newfoundland from the Temperence Hill mare Katherine Jean. John and Janene Maryanski purchased him for $36,000 at the 2008 Washington summer yearling sale and were rewarded last May when Newfound Man won his debut by more than eight lengths. Everything came apart in start No. 2, however. Newfound Man suffered broken bones in his right hind pastern during the River Rocks Resort Stakes at Hastings and underwent surgery a few hours later.

Pins still help to hold Newfound Man together, but otherwise the Blaine Wright-trained runner is as good as new. He won a six-furlong allowance race in 1:08.60 in his first start this year, was a close third behind Koala Beach and Posse Power in the one-mile Pepsi Cola Handicap in late June, and led throughout in the 1 1/16-mile Seattle Slew Handicap in his last start July 25. Inoel Beato, aboard for Newfound Man’s three starts this year, has the riding assignment.

Posse Power, bred by his owner, Claire Lien, is by Posse from the Pleasant Colony mare Stellarina. He has been third or better in 9 of 10 career starts, missing the board only in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in early April. A victim of poor racing luck in several of his races, including the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in February, Posse Power has won three times, with four seconds and two thirds. The Frank Lucarelli-trained runner had a clear shot at Newfound Man in the stretch in the Seattle Slew Handicap but couldn’t get past, and a similar scenario could present itself Sunday. He’ll be ridden by Francisco Duran.

Others in the field are Clear to Canada, Slew the Man, Koala Beach, Ain, Majestic Peak, Mr. Mad Max, and Saratoga Boot.