09/11/2013 4:02PM

Emerald Downs: Metz has chance to extend lead in trainers race


AUBURN, Wash. – Jeff Metz, seeking to capture the Emerald Downs training title in his first season here, will send out three starters Friday on Day 67 of the 75-day meeting, with his Barton Hill, a recent maiden winner at Portland Meadows, among the leading contenders in the featured sixth race for 3-year-olds. First post for the seven-race card is 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

With just nine days left before Emerald locks up for the winter, Metz holds a 38-37 lead in the trainer standings over two-time defending champion Frank Lucarelli. Doris Harwood, who has captured the Emerald Downs earnings title on three occasions but has never taken the wins title, is within striking range with 33 victories. Both Lucarelli and Harwood will be quiet Friday, with no scheduled starters, giving Metz three chances to build on his precarious lead.

Metz will send out sharp horses, with Barton Hill, Full Effect (Race 4), and Camp Pendleton (Race 7) each having won his last start. Barton Hill, who was cut loose from Bob Baffert’s barn after two starts in Southern California, has a win and two seconds in three starts for Metz. He figures to be one of the pace players in the feature race, a $15,000 claimer at one mile. Risky Road, a fast-closing second in his last start, is the probable favorite in a five-horse field, with Tale Spinner, making his first start since May, also likely to attract heavy interest in the wagering.

The Emerald Downs riding title is likewise up for grabs. Juan Gutierrez, who captured his first local riding title last year, holds a 93-90 lead over Emerald newcomer Isaias Enriquez heading into Friday. The two have been locked in a tight race for the past two months, with Gutierrez building a narrow lead last weekend. Gutierrez has been slightly better than Enriquez by every objective measure – more wins, a higher winning percentage (25 percent vs. 22 percent), a higher in-the-money percentage (64 percent vs. 56 percent), and more earnings ($975,179, about $87,000 more than Enriquez).

Enriquez could narrow the gap Friday, when he has six mounts, including the likely favorites in races 2, 3, 5, and 7. Gutierrez will ride five horses, with Memphis Mobster (Race 1) and Chu and I (Race 7) offering his best chances for victory.

No other rider is within shouting distance of Gutierrez and Enriquez. Rocco Bowen (48 wins) is a distant third in the jockey standings, just ahead of David Lopez (46), with Eliska Kubinova and Anne Sanguinetti (both with 43 victories) rounding out the top six.