08/16/2012 5:00PM

Emerald Downs: Mike Man’s Gold one of several with a chance in WTBA Lads


AUBURN, Wash. – In one of the most wide-open stakes races of the meeting, nine 2-year-old colts and geldings will trade punches Saturday in the $50,000 Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association Lads Stakes at Emerald Downs. As many as four of the nine could vie for the favorite’s role, and a couple of the longshots seem capable of springing an upset. The Lads, at 6 1/2 furlongs, highlights a nine-race card that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Mike Man’s Gold, who scored a $20.20 surprise in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda Stakes in his last start, will start from the outside post position. If he can compensate for the wide draw with a problem-free trip, he would seem to have as good a chance as any. His Premio Esmeralda win was a big one for trainer David Martinez, who recorded his first stakes victory, and for veteran jockey Javier Matias, who is having a breakthrough season – five stakes victories – and is scheduled to ride leading contender Winning Machine on Sunday in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

After Mike Man’s Gold won a maiden race from well off the pace, Matias employed more aggressive tactics in the Premio Esmeralda, shooting to the lead on the turn, and the Liberty Gold colt had enough in reserve to hold off fast-closing Finallygotabentley for a half-length victory. Finallygotabentley, a well-regarded colt by Bernardini from the multiple-stakes-winning mare Smarty Deb, will have a new look Saturday for trainer Tom Wenzel, donning blinkers while being ridden for the first time by Emerald Downs’s leading jockey, Juan Gutierrez. While he has finished second in each of his three starts, Finallygotabentley could start as the favorite.

Another maiden, the cleverly named Billable Ours (by Lawyer Ron), is likely to be the pick of trip handicappers who saw the horse steady and lose ground in his debut last month. Billable Ours rallied strongly to miss by less than a length at 5 1/2 furlongs and figures to enjoy the additional furlong in the Lads. Ridden in his debut by Matias – who opted to stick with Mike Man’s Gold – Billable Ours will be handled by Jose Zunino for trainer Chris Stenslie.

The other contenders include Country Rules, an impressive debut winner over Billable Ours on July 22; recent maiden winner Notdabossame; Music of My Soul, fourth in the Premio Esmeralda; and Scat Daddybaby, who faded quickly as the even-money favorite in the Premio Esmeralda but came back to work five furlongs in 59 seconds last Saturday. Gilmore and Cat Mon Blue complete the field.