06/10/2011 1:55PM

Emerald Downs: Clash of specialties in Washington State Legislators


AUBURN, Wash. – A fleet of sprinters will try to outrun some hard-knocking routers Sunday at Emerald Downs in the $50,000 Washington State Legislators Handicap. At 6 1/2 furlongs, it’s the final one-turn race for fillies and mares on the 2011 stakes schedule, and the owners and trainers of the 11 runners share a similar goal – to remain relevant as the distances get longer over the balance of the meeting.

One horse sure to remain in the conversation, barring injury, is Zenovit, who will be making her 2011 debut. A double stakes winner last summer, when she captured the Washington Oaks at Emerald and the British Columbia Oaks at Hastings, Zenovit is a happy camper at nine furlongs, but perhaps a little less formidable going short. As trainer Larry Ross points out, you have to start somewhere.

“Obviously, six and a half isn’t her favorite distance, but with all that speed in there, you don’t know what might happen,” Ross said Thursday, four days after Zenovit worked 4 furlongs in a best-of-the-morning 46.80 seconds. “She’s pretty versatile, and she broke her maiden going six furlongs. But we need a good fast pace.”

Ross should get his wish. You Me and Ema B, undefeated in three starts, and Cliff’s Secret, 5 for 5 at sprint distances, are quick from the blocks, and Ross will saddle Summers Peace, a newcomer from California who has had the lead at the half-mile marker in her past seven starts. A hot pace could vault Zenovit into the thick of things in the final furlong.

The filly-and-mare division is as good as it has been at Emerald in several years, though that fact didn’t dissuade four California-based horses from coming north for Sunday’s race. In addition to Summers Peace, the newcomers are Hard Way Ten, Eyes On the Prize, and Fifie’s Fantasy.

Hard Way Ten is a middle-distance turf specialist still eligible to compete against nonwinners of two. Eyes On the Prize, who races for Emerald Downs’ president Ron Crockett, has four career victories, all at a mile or longer. Fifie’s Fantasy is a sprinter, plain and simple.

“It looks like it’s almost two divisions, because some of the ones in here aren’t going to go long,” Ross said. “Some of these guys, like us, are prepping to go long, and some of the others, based on their form, have reached their limit. But it’s definitely a tough bunch. There’s no arguing that.”