07/12/2012 3:22PM

Emerald Downs: Lucarelli duo looks strong in Saturday feature


AUBURN, Wash. – Frank Lucarelli had been on the mother of all hot streaks until going 0 for 7 last weekend, but the veteran trainer has a strong chance to get back into the win column Saturday in the feature race at Emerald Downs. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific, and the feature, a $25,000 claimer for nonwinners of three races, is the eighth event on a nine-race card.

Lucarelli trains two of the five entrants, Tribaltique and Harbor Wind, and they figure to dominate the wagering. Tribaltique, a late-running sprinter, is coming off a smart victory over $12,500 claimers in which he ran six furlongs in 1:08.30 and covered the final furlong in 12.15 seconds. That effort earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 75, easily the best last-race speed figure among the five horses in Saturday’s feature, and suggests he should have no problem handling the jump in class.

Lucarelli also has the likely pacesetter in Harbor Wind, who finished third in a first-level allowance race in his last start after making a spirited run on the turn. Harbor Wind couldn’t collar the winner, Italian Boy, but Italian Boy might have more pure speed than any other 3-year-old at Emerald – he’s won each of his two starts this year in dominating fashion and is expected to be one of the leading contenders Sunday when he makes his stakes debut in the Seattle Slew Handicap.

A four-time training champion at Emerald, Lucarelli, 55, is having another strong season. He entered the week with a 27-24 lead over Tim McCanna in the trainer standings while also ranking first in purse winnings and fourth in overall winning percentage (minimum 30 starters) at 26 percent.

During a remarkable hot streak that began June 17 with Winning Machine’s victory in the Budweiser Handicap, Lucarelli won 12 of the 16 races in which he competed. And within that streak was a run of nine wins in 10 races. Overall, he has saddled 27 winners from 105 starters at the meeting, which began April 13 and reached its halfway point last Sunday.

Others in Saturday’s race are Exclusive Star, a deep closer who’s still looking for his second career victory; Frenzo, who has finished second in each of his past two starts; and Big Bad Jim, who closed ground to finish third against $25,000 claimers in his first attempt against winners. Big Bad Jim won a $10,000 maiden claimer in his previous start and seems to be improving quickly for trainer Dan Markle. He could be the upsetter if the Lucarelli duo falters.