07/11/2013 3:34PM

Emerald Downs: Metz looks to keep rolling in Saturday feature

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AUBURN, Wash. – Trainer Jeff Metz, who is enjoying a productive first season at Emerald Downs, could add to his haul Saturday when he sends out two starters, including likely favorite Max Cooper, in the featured ninth race, a $10,000 claimer for older horses at 1 1/16 miles. First post for the 10-race card is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Metz, who arrived from Turf Paradise in March, had saddled 23 winners through the first 38 days of the meeting, and his two starters in Saturday’s feature, Max Cooper and M Two Forty, have combined for five of those victories.

Max Cooper, by Max’s Pal, was bred in Florida and began his racing career in West Virginia before making stops at Calder, Del Mar, Fairplex, Betfair Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos, Santa Anita, and Golden Gate. None of those venues were as accommodating as Emerald Downs, where Max Cooper won in April and is 3 for 5 overall. In his most recent outing, July 3, Max Cooper attended a fast pace set by M Two Forty before rolling past his stablemate to win a $7,500, one-mile claimer by more than two lengths.

Juan Gutierrez, Emerald’s leading rider, will be aboard Max Cooper, while Anne Sanguinetti will ride M Two Forty. The Metz-trained pair will face just three other starters, and one of those, La Capitana, is likely to be a longshot in the wagering after being soundly beaten in a $2,500 claimer just six days ago.

The other two entrants, Advancement and Uzziah, could offer stern challenges to Max Cooper and M Two Forty. Advancement has never won at a route distance and is winless in four starts this year, but he boasts a quick turn of foot and is likely to be a pace presence after breaking from the inside post position with jockey Jennifer Whitaker.

Uzziah has lost 14 consecutive starts since a victory in a $7,500 claimer at Northlands Park last July. His two starts at the current meeting have been promising, however, and he could get a ground-saving trip behind what figures to be a fast and contested pace.

In Saturday’s fifth race, a handful of well-bred colts and geldings will compete in a five-furlong sprint for 2-year-old maidens. Grindster, making his career debut for trainer Jim Penney, could start as the favorite. He’s a half-brother to a string of successful Emerald Downs runners, including Gang Leader, The Gang and I, and recent maiden winner Follow My Tracks.