07/16/2012 8:03AM

Emerald Downs: Italian Boy upsets Seattle Slew; Champagneandcaviar surprises in Kent

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AUBURN, Wash. - The 3-year-old divisions at Emerald Downs were turned upside down Sunday with upsets in both halves of a stakes doubleheader.

Italian Boy, making his first start in a stakes race, captured the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap for colts and geldings as 9-5 favorite Makors Finale faded to finish fourth, and Champagneandcaviar, a 28-1 outsider, held off 4-5 favorite Exclusive Diva in the $50,000 Kent Handicap for fillies. Both races were at 1 1/16 miles.

Both winners led gate to wire, thought the races unfolded in drastically different ways. Italian Boy, after a pair of impressive victories in allowance sprints, sped through daunting fractions of 45.05 and 1:09.11 and had enough in reserve to hold off 2-1 second favorite D’honorable One to prevail by a head in 1:41.61. Italian Boy paid $10.40.

Two races later in the Kent, Champagneandcaviar set a leisurely pace, coasting through splits of 47.80 and 1:11.90, and then fought back gamely when collared by Exclusive Diva to prevail by three-quarters of a length while running the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.02. She returned $58.60.

William Antongeorgi III rode Italian Boy in the Seattle Slew for trainer Tim McCanna.

“I wanted to give my horse an easy lead, but we had to go a little quicker than I wanted,” said Antongeorgi,. “He got tired in the turn, but like a good horse, he dug in. I was a little surprised he was able to hold on after going so fast early in the race, especially since it was his first time going around two turns. He just kept trying the whole way.”

Italian Boy earned $27,500 for owners Luigi DiPietro of Seattle and Diana DiPietro of Tukwila, Wash., pushing his lifetime earnings to $59,230 in six starts. He is undefeated in three starts this year, and with his victory Sunday stamped himself as the horse to beat in the nine-furlong Emerald Downs Derby on Aug. 12.

Champagneandcaviar began the meeting in a $12,500 maiden claimer and was a most improbable winner Sunday. She recorded her second victory in 10 career starts. Javier Matias was aboard for trainer Howard Belvoir.

“There really wasn’t a plan going into this race,” Matias said. “I wanted to break fast this time, because last time she didn’t break well. I saw nobody was going to the lead, so I just took it. The pace was feeling so easy. From the quarter pole to the wire, I rode this horse so hard. (Exclusive Diva) passed me, so I went left-handed with the stick, and my horse came right back. I really wanted to beat that horse, because she was the class of the race.”

The $27,500 winner’s share pushed Champagneandcaviar’s career earnings to $47,775 for owners Raymond Kwik of Spokane, Wash., and Paul Goldberg of Westport, Conn.  She could start next in the Washington Oaks, a $65,000 race at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 11.