08/17/2012 3:06PM

Emerald Downs: Class Included faces token opposition in Distaff


AUBURN, Wash. – Class Included is in a class by herself at Emerald Downs. With the meeting’s biggest race for fillies and mares on tap Sunday – the $65,000 Emerald Distaff at nine furlongs – only four rivals were entered to face her, and two of those are her stablemates. Race 6 on the Longacres Mile undercard, the Distaff, barring the unforeseen, should provide Class Included with her sixth career stakes victory.

While the race is a handicap, the weights have been dumbed down considerably. Class Included will carry 122 pounds, a single pound more than she carried to victory in the one-mile Boeing Handicap in her last start. The others will tote 117 or fewer, with the lightweight, race-filler Private Fortune, in at 113. But a modest impost of 122 pounds is unlikely to deter Class Included, and in a five-horse field, it’s hard to imagine her getting a decisively poor trip. She will be handled by Juan Gutierrez, who is closing in on his first Emerald Downs riding title.

A homebred for Mike and Amy Feuerborn of Maple Valley, Wash., Class Included has never finished worse than second in 13 career starts. She is 3 for 4 this year, with victories in the Boeing, the six-furlong Hastings Handicap, and a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race, sandwiched around a narrow defeat in the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators Stakes in June.

Class Included, by Include from the multiple stakes-winning mare A Classic Life, has been formidable at the Distaff distance. She captured the 1 1/8-mile Washington Oaks last summer at 3, dominated the $100,000 British Columbia Oaks at Hastings four weeks later, and then suffered a neck defeat against older horses in the Grade 3 Ballerina Stakes at Hastings in her final start of the year.

Trainer Jim Penney has never saddled a Distaff winner but has the competition surrounded in this one. In addition to Class Included, Penney will send out Sweet Nellie Brown, a legitimate contender, and Private Fortune, who won a $15,000 claimer in her last start. The other entrants, E Z Kitty and Carrabelle Harbor, have stakes victories to their credit and can be formidable on their best day. But both are front-runners who threaten to cancel each other out and set things up for Class Included, who does her best work from just off the pace.

E Z Kitty might have the best chance to spring an upset. She got loose on the lead in the Washington State Legislators and held on to defeat Class Included by three-quarters of a length. Carrabelle Harbor scored a front-running victory over Class Included last July in the 1 1/16-mile Kent Handicap.