05/02/2012 4:38PM

Emerald Downs: Munger tries to continue hot streak


AUBURN, Wash. -- Emerald Downs will warm up for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Day festivities with a seven-race card on Friday evening. A simulcast of the Kentucky Oaks at about 2:45 p.m. Pacific precedes live racing, which begins at 6. Budweiser and Bud Light are $2.50 on Fridays at Emerald, and there’s live music adjacent to the winner’s circle.

Perhaps the presence of some rock ‘n’ rollers will compensate for the absence of a headliner on the track. Friday’s live offerings consists of two maiden races, three bottom-level $2,500 claimers, and a pair of $3,500 claimers, one of which will serve as the feature race.

In that race, 88-year-old Don Munger will look to extend a string of good fortune that saw the venerable trainer win four races last weekend, including three on Friday night – just the second three-bagger of his long career. Munger will saddle Newaukum Creek, who finished third behind a winning stablemate in a $5,000 claiming race in his last start.

Many of the big-name horses at Emerald have yet to race. The 81-day meeting began April 13, and the first event on the stakes calendar is the $50,000 Hastings Handicap for fillies and mares on May 13. The handicap division gets started in earnest the following weekend with the Governor’s Handicap.

Noosa Beach, Emerald’s horse of the meeting the past two years, is expected to make his season debut in the Governor’s. Noosa Beach breezed five furlongs in 1:02.20 last Saturday for trainer Doris Harwood.

Jebrica (four furlongs Sunday) also moved closer to a first start. Jebrica ran the fastest race of the 2011 Emerald Downs meeting, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for his romp in the nine-furlong Emerald Derby. Handled by Washington Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney, Jebrica could give Noosa Beach a run for his money this summer, beginning in the six-furlong Governor’s.

Chris Stenslie, who trains world-record holder Hollywood Harbor, said her stable star is likely to start in the Governor’s. Taking full advantage of a racing surface that was lightning-fast to begin the meeting, Hollywood Harbor ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:00.87 on April 22 to shatter the North American speed record. His effort earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92.

Noosa Beach has earned Beyers ranging from 89 to 99 in his past dozen starts dating to April 2010. His meeting with Jebrica and Hollywood Harbor would be one of the most anticipated races of the summer.