04/13/2011 3:05PM

Emerald Downs opening with familiar talent on hand


AUBURN, Wash. – Most of the familiar faces, human and equine, will be present Friday when Emerald Downs begins its 16th season.

Tim McCanna will send out five starters as he gears up to defend his training title.

Those directly behind McCanna in the 2010 standings – Vann Belvoir, Jim Penney, Frank Lucarelli, Doris Harwood and Howard Belvoir – combined to enter 15 horses for Friday’s eight-race card.

Gallyn Mitchell, Emerald’s all-time leading jockey in both wins (1,252) and career earnings ($12.7 million) has five mounts on opening night.

The lineup of horses includes Sis’s Sis, a two-time stakes winner last summer at 3, and Feeling Fancy, also a stakes winner and triumphant in 4 of her 5 starts at Emerald Downs. They’ll go head to head in Friday’s feature race, a $21,000 allowance for older fillies and mares at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Also returning in 2011, perhaps as early as Sunday in a $21,000 allowance sprint for older horses, are the past three winners of the Grade 3 Longacres Mile: Wasserman (2008), his Howard Belvoir-trained stable-mate Assessment (2009), and 2010 champion Noosa Beach, who won 6 of 7 starts last summer en route to a no-doubt-about-it coronation as horse of the meeting.

Missing from Friday’s festivities, which get under way at 6 p.m. Pacific and include a wildly popular flat-screen television giveaway, will be jockey Ricky Frazier. The five-time Emerald Downs riding champion, he has been sidelined since October, when a horse at the Fresno Fair violently threw its head, striking Frazier flush in the temple and leaving him with a severe concussion

Boone McCanna, Frazier’s longtime agent, said Frazier, 46, has been working diligently toward a May 1 return. He will need clearance from doctors before he can jump back aboard a horse at Emerald, where he has won an average of 121 races the past seven seasons, capturing titles in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010.

Frazier was Noosa Beach’s regular rider in 2010, meaning trainer Doris Harwood will have to find a stand-in if Noosa Beach runs Sunday. The speedy 5-year-old has been training sharply, breezing five furlongs in a minute flat last Saturday in his most recent work. Harwood said Noosa Beach is primed for another stellar season as he tries to become the fourth horse in 76 years to win the Longacres Mile twice.

Among those set to join Noosa Beach and Assessment in a crackerjack handicap division are Peaceful Reign, a Vann Belvoir-trained 5-year-old who hasn’t raced since last June, when he finished fourth behind the brilliant sprinter Majesticperfection in the Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows; Saratoga Boot, powerful winner of the 2010 Emerald Derby; Hollywood Harbor, who won three consecutive stakes for 2-year-olds in 2009 before missing most of 2010 because of injury; and the super-quick sprinter Boundtogetbusy, also coming back from injury following an abbreviated 2010.

The jockey colony, without Frazier for the time being, also must make do without Kevin Krigger and Inoel Beato, who plan to stay in Northern California, and 2008 riding champion Seth Martinez, who has set up permanent residence in the Midwest. Some of that void will be filled by Leslie Mawing, who rode 76 winners in 2008, his most recent season at Emerald Downs. Mawing has mounts in all eight races on opening night.