05/25/2011 2:21PM

Emerald Downs: Olympic Lights is the one to catch


AUBURN, Wash. – Olympic Lights, seeking his 10th victory at Emerald Downs, is scheduled to face six rivals in the feature race Friday as Emerald kicks off the holiday weekend with an eight-race card beginning at 6 p.m. Pacific.

A 7-year-old gelding trained by Charles Essex, Olympic Lights has won 9 of 20 local starts, including a front-running victory in a $15,000 claiming sprint April 16. After returning to finish second for $20,000 on May 8, he drops back to his winning level Friday. Robert Skelly has the riding assignment.

Among the seven entrants, Olympic Lights is quickest from the blocks, and six furlongs is his favorite trip. He’s 7 for 17 lifetime at the distance, with a pair of 1:08.20 clockings and a career-best 95 Beyer Speed Figure. He looked as good as ever in his April 16 start, cruising 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.63 in his first outing following an 11-week layoff. He failed to make the lead in his second start, but stayed on well to finish second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Newfound Gold.

Olympic Lights has made all but one of his 29 career starts for Essex, who lost the horse for $17,500 last June and claimed him back for $15,000 a month later. He has earned $86,972, not bad for a horse who didn’t race at 2 or 3 and began his career in a bottom-level maiden claimer in March of his 4-year-old season. Olympic Lights figures to be the favorite Friday and the one to catch if he gets away smoothly from the No. 4 post position.

Carry On John and Rescue Plan are the other leading contenders. Both finished behind Olympic Lights in their May 8 meeting – Carry On John was an even fourth; Rescue plan faded to fifth after pressing the pace – but they’re capable of turning the tables should Olympic Lights falter. Carry On John’s most recent victory came in October in the six-furlong Inaugural Handicap at Portland Meadows. Rescue Plan took a $12,500 claimer April 30 at Emerald.

Others in the field are Warrior Jon, who finished last of six behind Newfound Gold and Olympic Lights in his 4-year-old debut May 8; One Quick Brew, a multiple stakes winner at Portland Meadows who does his best work around two turns; Bleu Tarp, third for $12,500 in his last start; and Gentleman Lawyer, a late-runner who won 2 of 6 starts at Emerald last summer.