06/20/2012 3:51PM

Emerald Downs: Malibu Rum must run down Goggles McCoy in sprint


AUBURN, Wash. – Malibu Rum, undefeated in two starts this year, and Goggles McCoy, one of the fastest 3-year-olds in California not too long ago, headline the feature race Friday at Emerald Downs. First post is 6 p.m. Pacific, and the feature, a $15,000 claimer at six furlongs, is the sixth of seven races.

Trainer Dan Markle has coaxed a series of sharp efforts from Malibu Rum since taking control of the horse early last year. While the 5-year-old gelding has made just nine career starts – and missed all of 2010 because of injury – he loves to win races. He took his career debut, a $32,000 maiden claimer at Hollywood Park in 2009, won two of six starts at Emerald Downs last summer, and has been in peak form thus far in 2012. In his most recent effort, Malibu Rum rallied gamely from just off the pace to run down Untilifindyou while covering six furlongs in 1:08.53.

While Malibu Rum and jockey Debbie Hoonan profile as the ones to beat, they’ll have to hurry to catch some quick front-runners in a highly competitive eight-horse field. Untilifindyou, making his second start of the year, figures to be formidable. But none of the horses in the lineup are faster from the blocks than Goggles McCoy, who won his first four starts in 2010, capped by a gate-to-wire victory in the $100,000 Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar.

Claimed by his current owners for $25,000 at Golden Gate in January, Goggles McCoy will be making his second start at Emerald Downs. He helped set a blistering pace in a $32,000 claimer June 3 before fading to finish fifth, an effort that was flattered when the winner, Rainier Ice, returned to finish second in a stakes race last Sunday. Goggles McCoy, with jockey Leslie Mawing up for trainer Frank Lucarelli, figures to make most of the running, if not all of it.

Rocky’s Quest, an improving 4-year-old for trainer Blaine Wright, could make his presence felt if jockey Juan Gutierrez can work out a problem-free trip from the inside post position. Untilifindyou, who has finished first or second in 10 of 15 starts at Emerald Downs, should be in the mix from start to finish. And a pair of late-runners, Davos and Ugottabcatty, could come into play if Goggles McCoy falters.

Others in the field are Rezar, another hot horse from the Wright barn, and Vegas Flyer, who faces an uphill climb in his first start in six months.