08/29/2013 4:52PM

Emerald Downs: Come Away Home among several sharpies in claiming sprint


AUBURN, Wash. – A highly competitive $15,000 claiming sprint will serve as the feature race Saturday during a nine-race card at Emerald Downs. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific.

The seven horses entered in the 6 1/2-furlong feature have finished in the top two in 19 of 34 starts at the Emerald meeting, and only Edge Forward, who has been competing in stakes and allowance races, is without at least one victory. Come Away Home, who prevailed under similar conditions in his last start while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 82, is likely to start as the favorite.

The field could narrow to six if Dare Me Devil, a recent stakes winner at Portland Meadows, drops out. Trainer Rigoberto Velasquez entered Dare Me Devil to run Monday in the $35,000 Portland Mile, with Saturday’s race at Emerald Downs as a fallback option. Ronald Richard has the riding assignment at Emerald, while Michael Iammarino would be the pilot if Dare Me Devil starts Monday in Portland Meadows’ marquee race for older horses.

Come Away Home has yet to run a subpar race in four starts at the meeting. He returned from a three-month layoff to blast $12,500 nonwinners of two as a short-priced favorite in early May and then was a close second in a pair of open $10,000 claimers. Claimed for that price July 3, he stepped up to defeat $15,000 claimers July 26 for his new trainer-jockey tandem of Jim Penney and Juan Gutierrez. Penney and Gutierrez have teamed up to win with 29 of 73 starters over the past two years, a 39 percent success rate.

Come Away Home does his best work from a length or two off the pace and should have a couple of horses to target down the backstretch. Bleu Tarp, who has finished in the money in his six starts at the meeting, is likely to get involved early after breaking from the inside post position, and two others – Rezar and Havanna Red – are blessed with a quick turn of foot.

If the pace is sufficiently fast, Tapadero, a late-running sprinter, could come into play through the final furlong. Tapadero has finished first or second in 7 of 9 starts at Emerald Downs and most recently was a troubled second behind Dare Me Devil in the Oregon HBPA Sprint Stakes at Portland Meadows. Tapadero will have a new rider Saturday as Isaias Enriquez, locked in a tight battle with Juan Gutierrez for the Emerald riding title, steps in for Leonel Camacho-Flores.