09/23/2011 2:21PM

Emerald Downs: Chu and I challenged by two fast fillies in Gottstein Futurity


AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs will turn the final page on its 82-day meeting Sunday when it presents an 11-race card, highlighted by the $65,000 Gottstein Futurity, the Northwest’s traditional championship for 2-year-olds. Only five horses were entered in the Gottstein, and two of the leading contenders are fillies.

Sweet Saga and Talk to My Lawyer, who ran one-two in the one-mile Barbara Shinpoch Stakes last month, will take on Emerald’s leading 2-year-old male, Chu and I, over the Gottstein’s 1 1/16-mile distance. Chu and I is quick from the blocks – he won a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race by six lengths in 51.19 seconds – and figures to set the pace, but the fillies might be faster when all is said and done. Sweet Saga won the Shinpoch in 1:36.97. A day earlier, Chu and I took the one-mile WTBOA Lads Stakes in 1:38.43.

A victory would stamp Chu and I, already a double stakes winner, as Washington’s champion 2-year-old. After his smashing maiden victory for trainer Jim Penney, Chu and I led gate to wire in the restricted Strong Ruler Stakes in July. He suffered his only loss the following month in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda Stakes, missing by a neck after a long duel with Silver Boxcar. Chu and I rebounded in the Lads, holding on gamely to beat Havanna Red by a head after building a long lead at the top of the stretch. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez has the call, and Chu and I figures to go directly to the front.

The talented fillies will be in close pursuit. Talk to My Lawyer, who will be ridden by Leslie Mawing for the first time, and Sweet Saga both have tactical speed, though Sweet Saga is less likely to use it. After Talk to My Lawyer did the dirty work in the Shinpoch, dueling race favorite Exclusive Diva into submission, Sweet Saga rallied through the stretch to nail Talk to My Lawyer in the final strides.

Sweet Saga has worked twice since that day, and her most recent morning effort – a five-furlong breeze in 58.20 seconds – was nothing short of brilliant. Trainers Sharon and Larry Ross considered a restricted Washington Cup stakes race last weekend for Sweet Saga before they decided to take a chance in the Gottstein. Gallyn Mitchell has the riding assignment, and Sharon Ross expects a big effort.

“The race in the Washington Cup was 6 1/2 furlongs, but there was no reason to back her up after she did so well going a mile,” Ross said. “She’s worked really well up to this race. She’s going super. With this filly, the way she’s coming around, the timing isn’t a problem.”