06/01/2012 3:49PM

Emerald Downs: City Twister viable alternative to favored D'honorable One in Auburn


AUBURN, Wash. -- The first stakes race of the meeting for 3-year-old colts and geldings will be one of many challenges facing participants in the National Handicapping Championship qualifier Sunday at Emerald Downs. The 10 Emerald races are mandatory plays in the contest, with cash prizes and five trips to the final in Las Vegas up for grabs.

D’honorable One, who overpowered allowance foes in his first start of the meeting, profiles as a prohibitive favorite in the $50,000 Auburn Handicap over 6 1/2 furlongs. He is looking for his first stakes victory, having faltered as the 3-5 choice in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda Stakes in August. Trainer Blaine Wright then turned out D’honorable One for the rest of the year, giving him time to regroup from some minor health issues. He is 2 for 2 since returning to the races in February, and until proven otherwise, is the fastest 3-year-old on the grounds.

But the Auburn is far from a one-horse race. D’honorable One was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 87 for his recent allowance victory. City Twister was nearly as fast in his season bow, posting a Beyer of 82 in a runaway victory against $25,000 claimers, a race in which City Twister participated with a claiming waiver – it was a no-risk victory – and perhaps an ideal prelude to his first start in a stakes race.

City Twister benefitted from a ground-saving trip in his victory, but drew the outside post in an eight-horse field for the Auburn. Jockey Debbie Hoonan may have to make some difficult decisions on the fly to avoid getting packed wide around the turn. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see City Twister forwardly placed from the outset in a field with no obvious front-runner.

Makors Finale will be a popular horse in the wagering following a terrific winter campaign in Arizona. After winning a $30,000 maiden claiming sprint by nearly 20 lengths, Makors Finale ascended into stakes company, and while he couldn’t match strides with Taylors Deal in the 1 1/16-mile Turf Paradise Derby in February, he was easily second best. Makors Finale is a sibling to the fast sprinters Absolutely Cool and Love Makor, both of whom thrived on the sandy dirt at Emerald Downs.

Other contenders include Havanna Red, stakes placed twice last year but still a maiden after four starts; Johnski, a recent maiden winner at Golden Gate; and Brady’s Kat, who captured a restricted stakes race at Emerald .