09/22/2011 3:09PM

Emerald Downs: Big fields for final weekend of meet

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AUBURN, Wash. – With the meeting winding down to its final two days, Emerald Downs horsemen rushed the entry box Wednesday morning, eager for one last shot at purses before the frosty months ahead. That created a pleasant scenario for Bret Anderson, Emerald’s director of racing, who was able to cobble together 11-race cards for both Saturday and Sunday.

The entries included 101 horses in 11 races Saturday, an average of 9.2 per race. And on “getaway day” Sunday, another 99 horses are scheduled to compete. Those 200 horses represent about a quarter of the horse population on the Emerald backside. It’s good for business, and potentially rewarding for handicappers – Saturday’s pick-five sequence includes fields of 10, 12, 10, 11, and eight horses.

In the featured 10th race, a $10,000 claimer for older horses at six furlongs, Carry On John will try to win for the third time in seven starts at the meeting. Trained by Pat Mullens for Emerald Downs president Ron Crockett, Carry On John defeated a comparable field in his last start and has the services of jockey Juan Gutierrez, who entered the week with 96 victories, two short of his career high. Carry On John, who does his best running from just off the pace, figures to be a short-priced favorite and a popular single in the final leg of the pick five.

Other leading contenders in Saturday’s feature: Snake Attack, stepping up a level after being claimed for $7,500 from his last start; Immigration, a close third behind Carry On John on Aug. 14; and the speedy Chaching Pete, who has finished in the top three in 7 of 8 starts at the meeting.

The season wraps Sunday with what might be the best card of the meeting. The highlight is the $65,000 Gottstein Futurity, Emerald’s traditional championship for 2-year-olds. The undercard includes a $21,000 allowance for older fillies and mares that attracted three previous stakes winners, along with the Ashbaugh Beal Claiming Challenge, a six-race, $76,000 showcase for claimers.

The Gottstein, at 1 1/16 miles, attracted only five entrants – the smallest field of the weekend. Chu and I, a double stakes winner at the meeting, could start as the favorite, though a pair of talented fillies, Sweet Saga and Talk to My Lawyer, will attract considerable interest in the wagering. Sweet Saga rallied to win the Barbara Shinpoch Stakes in her last start, running a mile in 1:36.97. A day earlier, Chu and I won the WTBOA Lads Stakes in 1:38.43.