05/26/2012 11:31AM

Emerald Downs: Many holiday story lines to follow


AUBURN, Wash. – Some of the story lines on a holiday Monday at Emerald Downs:

* In the featured eighth race, a $12,500 claimer for 3-year-olds bred in Washington, He’s a Cruiser profiles as the horse to beat. Just six runners were entered in the six-furlong affair and He’s a Cruiser is the quickest of the bunch -- he helped set a fast pace in a $17,500 claimer in his last start despite getting away a couple of lengths slow. The winner that day, War Wizard, was a formidable opponent, and He’s a Cruiser is a candidate to benefit from some class relief for trainer Vince Gibson.

* Veteran trainer Arturo Arboleda has a leading contender in the fifth race, a maiden special weight for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Royal Cantu, one of a small handful of horses in Arboleda’s barn, ran a big race in her debut May 13 to finish fourth behind an impressive winner. She’ll meet three others from the same race Monday in an evenly-matched field of seven. With a $17,000 purse, it’s the richest race on the card by far, and one Arboleda would no doubt dearly love to win. He has visited the winner’s circle just 12 times over the past five years at Emerald Downs, all with lower-level claimers. Royal Cantu, if she can build on her promising debut, could be Arboleda’s big horse.

* Juan Gutierrez has mounts in six of the nine races as he looks to break a logjam at the top of the jockey standings. After riding two winners Friday evening, Gutierrez went into the weekend with 20 wins, tied with Joe Crispin for the lead and two ahead of both Leonel Camacho-Flores and apprentice Eliska Kubinova. None of the top four has won an Emerald riding title, though Gutierrez, with 906 career victories in Auburn, is No. 2 on the track’s all-time wins list.

* Eager to chase a two-day carryover of more than $21,000, bettors poured a record $71,331 into Emerald’s Pick 5 pool Friday night, obliterating the previous Pick 5 record pool of $30,168 set June 26, 2011. Friday’s sequence, races 3-7, yielded several short-priced winners and the 50-cent Pick 5 returned $995.55.

* Emerald-based trainers Frank Lucarelli and Blaine Wright have horses in Monday’s Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap at Golden Gate. Lucarelli entered both Gallant Son, Emerald’s champion 2-year-old in 2008, and Michael the Man. Wright will saddle Hudson Landing, recent winner of the San Francisco Mile on the Golden Gate turf. Also in the Berkeley: Awesome Gem, winner of the 2011 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.