07/31/2013 4:48PM

Emerald Downs: Clemens Brook trying a route

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AUBURN, Wash. – Clemens Brook, a veteran sprinter who has never raced around two turns, will try to carry her speed over 1 1/16 miles Friday in the featured sixth race at Emerald Downs. A $17,500 claimer for statebred fillies and mares, it’s the highlight of a seven-race card that begins at 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

Only five horses were entered to compete for the purse of $13,750, and Clemens Brook, a 6-year-old by Petersburg, should have things her own way in the early stages. She has been ultra-consistent over the past two years, with 11 top-two finishes from 13 starts, and comes into Friday’s race having won her past two starts in front-running fashion.

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In her most recent outing July 15, Clemens Brook vied for the lead through quick interior fractions and prevailed by a head, running six furlongs in 1:10.30. She was claimed out of that race for $10,000 and will make her first start for trainer Rigoberto Velasquez since June 2012, when Velasquez lost Clemens Brook in a $5,000 claimer. She will have a new rider as well, as Isaias Enriquez takes over for Eliska Kubinova. Enriquez, a newcomer to Emerald Downs this year, began the week deadlocked with Juan Gutierrez atop the jockey standings, each with 68 wins through the first 47 days of the meeting.

Can Clemens Brook get the distance? That will be the overriding question for handicappers, and there are some positive signs that she might be able to. She’s a half-brother to Hickory Road, who was 2 for 8 routing, and over the past five years Velasquez has clicked with 20 percent of his starters making their first route attempt. Velasquez has been terrific with freshly claimed horses as well – 14 for 39 (36 percent) over the past five years.

While Clemens Brook is likely to dictate terms on the front end, she will need to have plenty in reserve to hold off some formidable challengers led by Stephanie Plum, the likely betting favorite, who missed by a head in a $20,000 claimer at one mile in her last start and has enough tactical speed to shadow Clemens Brook.

The other three include Private Fortune, who has fallen on hard times recently but finished second in the nine-furlong Washington Oaks during her 3-year-old year in 2010; Whiskey Miner, who won by seven lengths in her first route attempt last summer; and Just Have’n Fun, a close third behind Clemens Brook on July 15 and also a more effective horse around two turns.