07/31/2012 4:33PM

Emerald Downs: Dynamalt stands out, but class drop a concern


AUBURN, Wash. – A group of hard-knocking $5,000 routers will get star billing Thursday when racing resumes at Emerald Downs, a modest start to a four-day racing week that culminates Sunday with the $50,000 Angie C Stakes for 2-year-old fillies. Thursday’s seven-race card begins at 6 p.m. Pacific.

The seven entrants in the feature have 47 career victories between them, and the betting could spread out across the board. But Dynamalt, an impressive winner against $7,500 claimers in his last start, is the obvious horse to beat over 1 1/16 miles. The Dave Bennett trainee was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 71 for his latest effort, which would translate into a two- or three-length advantage over his chief rivals in Thursday’s race.

Yet rather than jump Dynamalt up a class level or two, Bennett is dropping his horse a level, leaving handicappers to read both the past-performance lines and the trainer’s intentions. If Dynamalt, an off-the-pace type with eight career victories at distances from eight furlongs to 11 furlongs, runs his race, he’ll be hard to deny. If the class drop is a red flag, the race could be wide open. Juan Gutierrez, who began the week with a 67-63 lead over Leslie Mawing in the Emerald jockey standings, has the riding assignment on the likely favorite.

If Dynamalt falters, or if the pace is too slow to flatter his closing kick, Dance Chief could emerge as the winner. Another accomplished old-timer, with eight victories and $229,342 in earnings, Dance Chief made his Emerald Downs debut June 30, and while he prevailed by just a head against $3,500 claimers, he seemed to have plenty in reserve under apprentice Eliska Kubinova, who kept Dance Chief in a wide path around both turns. Kubinova will be back aboard for Tim McCanna, who ranks second in the Emerald trainer standings with 28 wins, three behind Frank Lucarelli.

Three others with recent victories could have a say in the outcome. Tobiah’s Journey rallied from midpack to defeat $2,500 nonwinners-of-three races in his last start, while I Am Thor and Doctor Pav were victorious against $3,500 claimers in their most recent outing.

Koala Beach, a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles during his 2-year-old season in 2009, also could be a factor; he was a close second in his season debut at 6 1/2 furlongs last month and should appreciate the added ground.

Sarganis, second behind Doctor Pav in his last start, rounds out the field.