05/29/2013 4:29PM

Emerald Downs: Pair of Aces, Roarified figure to hook up on Friday


AUBURN, Wash. – Front-runners River of Aces and Roarified headline the feature race Friday at Emerald Downs, a $17,500 claimer for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs. First post for the seven-race card is 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

Seven horses were entered to run in the feature, and most of the action will take place up front. River of Aces has won 4 of 9 career starts, each victory coming from on or just off the pace. Roarified has been even better, emerging victorious in 9 of 13 starts, with eight of those victories in gate-to-wire fashion.

River of Aces and Roarified will start side by side in gates 5 and 4, respectively. Eliska Kubinova, River of Aces’s regular pilot last summer when the filly won three times at Emerald Downs, has the riding assignment for trainer Charles Essex. Roarified, who is trained by Doris Harwood, will be handled by jockey Isaias Enriquez, a newcomer to the Northwest who was winning at a 24 percent clip through the first 19 days of Emerald’s 75-day meeting.

River of Aces, an Essex homebred, is coming off a smashing victory in a $17,500 claimer May 17 in which she ran 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.75. While she faced little in the way of pace competition that day, River of Aces would have been an elusive target for just about any rival after she overcame a slow break from the gate to run the first quarter-mile in 21.37 seconds. River of Aces proceeded to cover a half-mile in 44.08 and five furlongs in 56.18 before coasting home to win by more than two lengths. If she can summon a similar effort Friday, River of Aces will be the horse to beat.

Roarified has done very little wrong during a career that has been cut short because of various health issues. She raced once at 2, routing low-level maidens by more than 10 lengths, and started just four times during her 3-year-old campaign in 2011. Roarified made it to the starting gate five times last year, and while she continued to win, she tumbled down the class ladder, taking a $3,500 claimer and then a $3,500 starter allowance in her final two starts.

Roarified made her 2013 debut for $5,000 and was claimed. She stepped in against $10,000 Washington-breds in her next start and won by four lengths. She steps up again Friday into what could be the toughest test of her career to date.

Rounding out the field are Cheese Danish, Just Have’n Fun, Private Fortune, Mum’s Joke, and Stephanie Plum, who overcame trouble to finish second behind River of Aces in her last start.