09/07/2012 2:38PM

Emerald Downs: Muckleshoot Tribal Classic field small but competitive

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AUBURN, Wash. – Only four horses will compete Sunday in Emerald Downs’s championship event for horses bred in Washington, the $40,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at 1 1/16 miles. The centerpiece of Washington Cup Day – six stakes races for statebreds worth a total of $215,000 in purses – the Muckleshoot will go as the third race on a nine-race card that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

While lacking in quantity, the Muckleshoot attracted some quality runners. Leading contenders Jebrica and Couldabenthewhisky have six stakes victories between them, while Kooky Saluki, making his second stakes appearance, has developed this summer into a formidable middle-distance specialist. The final starter, Our Eagle Boy, captured a race on the Washington Cup program a year ago.

While Jebrica’s 2012 season has been bumpy – just one victory over three rivals in an allowance sprint – he is likely to be a prohibitive favorite in the Muckleshoot. He has been effective at route distances throughout his career and boasts the tactical speed to be a factor from the opening jumps in a compact field. In his career-defining moment, Jebrica captured the nine-furlong Emerald Derby last August, an effort that earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

Jebrica, owned by Ron and Rosalie Warren of Olympia, Wash., and conditioned by Washington Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney, was the only Washington-bred to start in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug.  19. He finished eighth after a troubled trip but came out of the race in good order and worked a quick five furlongs last weekend. Juan Gutierrez, closing in on his first Emerald riding title, will be aboard.

There are no need-the-lead types among the four entrants. Jebrica is likely to be forwardly placed, with Our Eagle Boy and Kooky Saluki dictating what should be a moderate pace. Couldabenthewhisky also could get involved early, though he tends to do his best work from two or three lengths off the pace. It would be no great surprise if the Muckleshoot turned into an all-out sprint from the three-eighths pole.

In other Washington Cup races:

* Makors Finale, a three-time stakes winner at the meeting, looms a very short price in the $35,000 Chinook Pass for 3-year-old colts and geldings at one mile. The Tom Wenzel-trained Makors Finale is unbeaten in two starts at the distance, and is coming off a powerful, front-running victory in the Emerald Derby in his last start. He towers over a field of five, with the speedy but largely untested sprinter Tough Road Ahead his most formidable competition.

* Mike Man’s Gold, undefeated in three starts, and Music of My Soul will renew their rivalry in the $35,000 Dennis Dodge for 2-year-old colts and geldings at six furlongs. Mike Man’s Gold won the 6 1/2-furlong WTBOA Lads Stakes in his last start, with Music of My Soul a head back in second. Cariboo Road, a snappy allowance winner in his last start, is the other leading contender in a six-horse field.

* Talk to My Lawyer, who beat males in the Gottstein Futurity to cap her 2-year-old season, headlines the $35,000 John and Kitty Fletcher for 3-year-old fillies at one mile. While she has been far less formidable in 2012, Talk to My Lawyer is coming off her best effort of the year, a close second behind the good sprinter Lady Vivien after getting stymied behind horses at the top of the lane. She could be favored over Royal Moses, a fast-closing fourth in the Washington Oaks in her last start, and likely pacesetter River of Aces, who has never raced beyond six furlongs.

* Madame Pele, a maiden, appears to be the horse to beat in the $35,000 Diane Kem for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs. Madame Pele, by Salt Lake, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 55 while running second in her only start, making her, on paper, about four lengths faster than any of her eight rivals. Say Say, claimed for $25,000 out of her racing debut eight days ago, could offer some resistance. 

* Defending champion Sweet Nellie Brown stands tall in the $35,000 Belle Roberts for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. One of three horses from the Penney barn in the seven-horse field, Sweet Nellie Brown has been rounding into peak form. She closed strongly to finish second in the one-mile Boeing Handicap in July, and then helped set a fast pace in the nine-furlong Emerald Distaff in her last start. Both of those races were won by stablemate Class Included, who is scheduled to start Sunday in the $50,000 Delta Colleen Handicap at Hastings.