08/26/2011 3:32PM

Emerald Downs: Exclusive Diva formidable favorite in Barbara Shinpoch


AUBURN, Wash. -- Exclusive Diva will put her perfect record on the line Sunday in the $50,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at Emerald Downs. The one-mile Shinpoch is the Northwest’s traditional championship for 2-year-old fillies, and Exclusive Diva, front-running winner of the Angie C Stakes in her last start, is likely to be a short-priced favorite against five rivals.

A homebred for Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms, Exclusive Diva is by Bernardini, who stands for $75,000 at Darley in Lexington, Ky. Bernardini sightings are rare at Emerald Downs, and Exclusive Diva has made a powerful impression in her two starts to date. She rolled to an easy victory in a maiden race in early July, running five furlongs in 57.60 seconds, and then took the Angie C three weeks ago, beating fast-closing Royal Moses by a length while covering six furlongs in 1:09.81.

The effort was impressive. After putting away the speedy Lady Dakota, Exclusive Diva was joined from the outside by Royal Moses with a quarter-mile still to run. After a brief head-to-head tussle, Exclusive Diva kicked clear in midstretch, leaving the impression they could have gone another lap with the same result. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez will be back aboard Sunday for trainer Tom Wenzel.

Exclusive Diva is 2 for 2, and Miss Top Nite, a probable longshot, has one victory. The other four starters are maidens, albeit talented maidens. They include Royal Moses, who missed by a neck in the restricted Knights Choice Stakes in her career debut before getting schooled by Exclusive Diva in the Angie C; Talk to My Lawyer, a distant third in the Angie C; Sweet Saga, and Gentleman’s Red. All four have a fighting chance in the Shinpoch, but only if the favorite takes a step backward.

Talk to My Lawyer, a $30,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland in 2010, is one who could appreciate the one-mile distance – her dam, Infernal McGoon, was a stakes winner around two turns. Sweet Saga is bred to go long as well, while Exclusive Diva’s dam, multiple stakes winner Puxa Saco, was primarily a sprinter. Bernardini has sired winners at classic distances, however, and it’s doubtful eight furlongs would be a significant obstacle for Exclusive Diva.

Exclusive Diva has yet to be headed in two starts and likely will employ similar front-running tactics Sunday. Sweet Saga and Gentleman’s Red should be close up early, while Royal Moses, Talk to My Lawyer, and Miss Top Nite bide their time from the back.