06/14/2012 3:47PM

Emerald Downs: Italian Boy out to duplicate romp


AUBURN, Wash. – Italian Boy and Include the Baby are the horses to beat Saturday in the co-feature races at Emerald Downs. Italian Boy headlines the ninth race, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds with a $25,000 claiming option, while Include the Baby tops the eighth race, a first-level allowance for fillies and mares.

Italian Boy is a burgeoning sprint star who turned heads in his season debut May 26, when he ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.59 to win by more than seven lengths. His effort earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 86, a towering achievement for a 3-year-old making his first start following a 10-month layoff.

Italian Boy led gate to wire, zipping through fractions of 22.03 seconds and 22.44 before kicking away strongly while covering the final three-sixteenths in 17.12. If his Beyer accurately gauges his talent, Italian Boy could be about five lengths faster than his rivals in Saturday’s race. Tim McCanna, seeking his 11th Emerald Downs training title, has named William Antongeorgi III to ride.

But while Italian Boy looks formidable, he’ll have to contend with five rivals, most of them lightly raced and full of potential. Tough Road Ahead, who will be break from the inside post position, with Italian Boy in the No. 2 hole, is undefeated in two starts for trainer Alan Bozell. War Wizard, after a fruitless campaign in Southern California, is 2 for 2 at Emerald for trainer Frank Lucarelli. And recent maiden winners Power Fleet and Red Colt Fortyfive, both trained by Chris Stenslie, have hinted at bright futures.

Include the Baby captured a $12,500 claiming sprint in her first start of the year. She ran six furlongs in 1:09.12 and was going easily in the final furlong. While she jumps up in class Saturday, the speedy Include the Baby should be highly competitive in a race with no obvious front-runner. Include the Baby has never been worse than second in five career fast-track sprints.

Juan Gutierrez, who began the week with a narrow lead in the jockey standings, has the ride on Include the Baby for trainer Jim Penney. They’ll break from the outside post in a six-horse field. Stablemate Private Fortune, a stakes-placed router making her first start of 2012, will break from the rail.

Others in the field are Seventyprcentcocoa, recent winner of a $17,500 claiming sprint for nonwinners of two; Maggie’s Special, a double sprint winner at Emerald last year; the steadily improving Just Have’n Fun; and likely longshot Heavenly Queen.