06/29/2012 3:46PM

Emerald Downs: Much guesswork involved in stakes for 2-year-olds

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AUBURN, Wash. – A pair of restricted stakes for 2-year-olds headline a 10-race card Sunday at Emerald Downs, and with most of the runners making their first career start, handicappers will have to do some educated guesswork to identify the winners. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific, and the stakes – the $25,000 Son of Briartic for fillies, the $25,000 Slewdledo for colts and geldings – will go as races 7 and 9.

The pool of available runners was small, with each race attracting six horses. Emerald has staged only a handful of 2-year-old races through the first 11 weeks of the meeting, and Sunday’s races are limited to progeny of duly nominated stallions. Only six stallions are represented, with Harbor the Gold, Matty G, and Raise the Bluff accounting for nine of the 12 starters.

Master’s Bluff figures to start as the favorite in the five-furlong Slewdledo after a strong showing June 16 in a maiden race. Marooned on the far outside in the four-furlong dash, Master’s Bluff moved quickly to engage the front-running Scat Daddybaby and stuck around to finish third, three lengths behind the winner. The Dave Bennett-trained Master’s Bluff will start from post 4, allowing for easier access to the front for jockey Rocco Bowen.

He’s Not Bluffin, making his debut for trainer Jim Penney, also could be a popular choice following a string of eye-catching workouts. In his most recent tune-up June 17, He’s Not Bluffin sped five furlongs in 58.40 seconds, the fastest of 21 works at the distance that morning. Juan Gutierrez, who began the week with a 39-33 lead in the jockey standings, has the call on He’s Not Bluffin, who will break from the rail.

Others in the Slewdledo field are Off Harbor Account, a wide fourth behind Scat Daddybaby in his career debut; Willy B Gold, a full brother to fast sprinter Bogachiel; Harbor Star; and Galway Guinness.

In the Son of Briartic, the outlook is more muddled. Five of the six fillies will be starting for the first time, and the only starter to date, Valid Vixen Queen, was a non-threatening third in a $12,500 maiden claimer in her only start.

If the race goes to a first-time starter, Kathi’s Road could be the one. She has been fast in the morning, and trainer Frank Lucarelli has been on a roll lately – he entered the week having won with seven of his past eight starters. Breaking from the inside post under William Antongeorgi III, Kathi’s Hope might be the one they will have to catch.