04/25/2013 2:09PM

Emerald Downs: I Keep Saying brings speed to $25,000 claimer


AUBURN, Wash. – I Keep Saying looms as a heavy favorite Saturday in the featured race at Emerald Downs. The eight-race card begins at 2 p.m. Pacific, and the 5 1/2-furlong feature, a $25,000 claimer for older horses who have yet to win twice, is the seventh race on the program.

I Keep Saying will be making his first start since August. A 4-year-old homebred for trainer Jim Penney, the speedy Yankee Gentleman gelding won a $20,000 maiden claimer in July, zipping six furlongs in 1:08.62 to stamp himself as a potential stakes-quality sprinter. But I Keep Saying faded in his two subsequent starts against winners before going to the sidelines for an extended rest.

Emerald Downs newcomer Ronald Richard will ride I Keep Saying for the first time. Richard, 19, won two races during Emerald’s opening weekend after arriving from Northern California and has another solid chance with I Keep Saying, who worked a fast four furlongs from the gate in 46 seconds two weeks ago. Penney has won with seven of his past 20 starters returning from a layoff of six months or longer.

Cariboo Road could test the favorite. Stakes-placed a year ago at 2, when he finished third in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda Stakes in his second start, Cariboo Road spent part of the winter at Santa Anita. He was the runner-up in a $25,000 claimer Dec. 28 in his final start at 2 and then was outrun in two subsequent starts. Veteran Debbie Hoonan has the riding assignment for trainer Dan Markle.

Cariboo Road has enough speed to hook up with I Keep Saying in the early stages, and if the pace gets overheated, it could set things up for the late-running Leadership to get a big piece of the $14,375 purse. Leadership has just one victory in 13 starts, but he has finished second six times and always gives an honest account. Regular rider Jennifer Whitaker will be aboard for trainer Howard Belvoir.

Our Blend and Fist Full of Green complete the field. Our Blend returned last Friday from a long layoff to beat $5,000 maiden claimers with ease. He now will try to make the class jump into a field of $25,000 winners.

Fist Full of Green capped his 2012 campaign with a gate-to-wire victory in a $25,000 maiden claimer. He’s been fast in the morning, with three bullet works since late March.