05/09/2012 4:03PM

Emerald Downs: Go With Gusto tries for first route victory


AUBURN, Wash. - The scramble to fill races continues at Emerald Downs. The fourth week of the meeting begins Friday at 6 p.m. Pacific with a seven-race program and only 48 potential starters. The feature race, a $12,500 claimer for older horses at one mile, attracted a field of six.

Go With Gusto and Hard Slider, each with a victory at the meeting, will attract the lion’s share of the betting in the feature. Favorites have dominated at the meeting to date, winning 44 percent of the first 103 races.

Go With Gusto has a special affinity for the Emerald surface, winning 7 of his 19 local starts for veteran trainer Roy Lumm. He was a terror last summer, winning three consecutive races and just missing in a couple of others with his patented late charge.

Lumm has yet to coax a victory out of Go With Gusto at a route distance, but the trainer keeps trying. This will be his sixth two-turn attempt in the past nine months. In his best effort, Go With Gusto rallied to miss by 2 1/2 lengths in a first-level optional claming race last August.

In his most recent outing, Go With Gusto made a bold late charge to prevail in a $10,500 claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs. Joe Crispin, who has been up for each of his past four victories, has the riding assignment.

Hard Slider can’t compete with Go With Gusto in the experience department, but the Frank Lucarelli-trained 4-year-old looked to be in peak form April 14 when rolling to a front-running victory in a sprint for $7,500 nonwinners of three. Hard Slider should be a formidable pace player Friday under Leslie Mawing. They will start from post 2 with Go For Gusto to their inside.

Others in the field are Ricky Ricky, an intriguing longshot with two victories at the distance; Swiss Exploit, winner of the popular route-claiming series this spring at Portland Meadows; Dare Me Devil, a close third behind Go With Gusto in his last start; and Shamundi, a multiple stakes winner in Oregon.

Several of the runners have tactical speed, and the outcome could be decided by the jockeys as much as the horses. If they succeed in slowing the pace early, the front-runners could get a jump on Go With Gusto and have enough left to hold him off. But if they go too fast early, Go With Gusto will be hard to deny in the final furlong.