06/29/2012 3:47PM

Emerald Downs: Lucarelli barn riding hot streak


AUBURN, Wash. – There’s warm, there’s hot, there’s red-hot, and then there’s Frank Lucarelli. The veteran trainer has been scalding over the past two weeks, winning with seven of his nine starters at Emerald Downs. And even that is selling Lucarelli short, since one of his losers ran second behind one of his winners. That makes it seven wins in eight races, helping Lucarelli build a 22-19 lead over Howard Belvoir and Tim McCanna in the Emerald trainer standings.

Lucarelli’s streak began with a three-bagger June 17, with Winning Machine’s victory in the Budweiser Handicap the crowning achievement. Lucarelli was 1 for 2 last Friday – Goggles McCoy, a fading sprint star from Northern California, finished last after setting the pace – and won three more races Saturday, with Song of Seattle and Forest Bunny running 1-2 in a maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies.

Meanwhile, Lucarelli has been running a string of horses in California, and as always, he’s got some good ones. On June 3, Cruzin the Harbor, a full brother to Emerald stakes winner Hollywood Harbor, won a first-level allowance gate to wire under Russell Baze, the colt’s fourth consecutive top two finish. On June 9, El Rey Fernando rallied impressively to win a maiden special weight. And Gallant Son, Lucarelli’s stable star, is scheduled to run Sunday in the $68,000 Robert Kerlan Memorial Handicap on the turf at Hollywood Park.

Atta Boy Roy working his way back

Atta Boy Roy, the leading earner among active Washington-breds, is back in training at Canterbury Park in Minnesota. The 7-year-old breezed four furlongs last Sunday, his fifth workout since starting back up in late May, and is being readied by trainer Valorie Lund for a summer and fall campaign.

Owned by Roy and Ellie Schaefer of Port Orchard, Wash., Atta Boy Roy has earned $580,980 while winning 13 of 31 career starts. He hasn’t raced since December at Turf Paradise, where he faded to finish a well-beaten fifth in a minor stakes race. Lund said Atta Boy Roy has been recovering from abdominal surgery in January to reset a displaced colon.

“I’m trying to keep him slow right now, until I get some solid five-eighths drills in him,” Lund said last week. “The break was really nice for him, but it’s been a long time. I’d say he’s probably still six weeks from running in a race.”

Atta Boy Roy was Washington’s champion sprinter in 2009 and 2010 and shares Emerald’s six-furlong track record (1:07) with Noosa Beach. Lund is hoping he can be a productive stakes horse for another year or two, long enough to reach a coveted milestone.

“He’s been training very well so far,” she said. “I expect him to have another good season. Our goal is still for him to become the richest Washington-bred of all-time.”

Saratoga Passage is the current leader at $800,212.

Portland Meadows summer meet

Portland Meadows is moving forward with plans to begin a new summer/fall meeting July 15, putting it in direct competition with Emerald Downs through the end of September.

Portland’s summer meet will offer racing three days per week – Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday – in July, August, and September. The weekday cards will begin at 6 p.m., and Sunday racing starts at 1.

The fall meet will begin Oct. 3, and racing shifts to a Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday schedule with post time each day at 1 p.m. Closing day is Dec. 8.

◗ Makors Finale was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 83 for his three-quarter-length victory over D’honorable One in the Coca-Cola Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings June 24, and Exclusive Diva earned a 75 Beyer the same day for her three-quarter-length triumph over Royal Moses in the Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies.

◗ The number of runners at Emerald has increased in recent weeks, to an average of 6.58 starters per race. That’s down slightly from the 2011 average of 6.73 starters per race and off 6 percent from the 2010 average of 7.03.

◗ Speed horses have dominated in recent weeks at Emerald Downs. On June 10, nine of the 10 races were won by front-runners who sprinted clear, set the pace, and then increased their advantage in the final furlong, and the surface has been conducive to speed ever since. In three racing days last week, 16 of the 27 races were captured gate to wire, and several other pacesetters stayed on surprisingly well after carving fast fractions.

◗ Favorites are winning at a 42 percent clip so far in 2012 – 125 of the 297 races have been won by the betting choice. That’s up from 37 percent in each of the previous four seasons.

◗ After a dark day Monday, Emerald Downs swings back into action Tuesday with a special holiday-eve card and fireworks show. Racing begins at 4:30 p.m., and the fireworks will start about 30 minutes after the final race.