09/27/2013 3:29PM

Emerald Downs: Harwood holds strong pair for Gottstein Futurity

Erin Palmer/Emerald Downs
Noosito is among the favorites for Sunday's $75,000 Gottstein Futurity.

AUBURN, Wash. – Doris Harwood will try to cap an eventful Emerald Downs meeting Sunday with a victory in a race the trainer has dominated in recent years, the $75,000 Gottstein Futurity. The Gottstein, which attracted a field of 10, including four fillies, serves as Emerald’s traditional championship for 2-year-olds, and with likely favorites Noosito and Del Rio Harbor in her care, Harwood is positioned to win the race for the fourth time in seven years. First post for the 11-race card is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Noosito and Del Rio Harbor teamed up to control the pace in the six-furlong Daily Racing Form Dennis Dodge Stakes three weeks ago, their jockeys following Harwood’s prerace directions – “let’s settle this down the lane” – to the letter. After a moderate half-mile in 45.10 seconds, the Harwood pair quickened through the stretch while racing side by side. At the finish, Noosito and jockey Isaias Enriquez prevailed by a neck, with Del Rio Harbor and Rocco Bowen, who dropped his whip in the final 100 yards, five lengths clear of the third-place finisher.

Both horses should appreciate the Gottstein’s 1 1/16-mile distance. Del Rio Harbor is a full brother to Couldabenthewhisky, who won the 2010 Gottstein on a sloppy track. Noosito is a full brother to a pair of stakes-winning routers, including Noosa Beach (11 stakes wins at Emerald Downs) and Music of My Soul, who won the Gottstein Futurity for Harwood last year. Harwood also won the Gottstein with Smarty Deb, a filly, in 2007, and Koala Beach in 2009.

This year’s Gottstein field lacks a rabbit, potentially leaving Del Rio Harbor and Noosito to battle it out up front yet again. Del Rio Harbor, whose three-race winning streak came to an end in the Dennis Dodge, has a little more early speed than his stablemate and seems most likely to set the pace. If there’s a wild card in the pace scenario, it could be Morning Line Wiz, a Henny Hughes gelding who won a stakes race at Portland Meadows in his career debut and then ran a big race in his first start at Emerald when finishing second in an allowance sprint on Sept. 15.

If the pace gets heated, a handful of closers could made their presence felt, perhaps none more so than Mebossman for trainer Frank Lucarelli. While Mebossman is still a maiden after four starts, he seems to be tailor-made for longer distances.

Strawberry Dawn, the best of the four fillies in the lineup, also could make an impact, but she will have to summon the best effort of her young career to get past the Harwood pair.