06/28/2012 4:40PM

Emerald Downs: Polish Dollar must prove last race was no fluke


AUBURN, Wash. – How fast is Polish Dollar? That will be the key question facing handicappers when they evaluate Saturday’s feature race at Emerald Downs. The eighth event on a nine-race program that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific, the feature – a first-level allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs – attracted five runners, and Polish Dollar is the perplexing wild card.

Highly competitive in lower-level claiming races over the past two years, Polish Dollar is jumping several class levels on the heels of a smashing victory June 9 in a $10,000 claimer. After setting the pace, the 6-year-old gelding kicked clear around the turn and came home in a hurry, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.70 and covering the final five-sixteenths in an eye-catching 29.74 seconds.

That effort was assigned a Beyer Speed Figure of 92, putting Polish Dollar in high-rent territory usually occupied by stakes horses. Only two horses have earned faster speed figures through the first 10 weeks of Emerald’s current meeting – Winning Machine got a 94 for his victory in the Governor’s Handicap and Hollywood Harbor was assigned a 93 after setting a North American speed record for 5 1/2 furlongs on dirt April 22. All of which explains why Polish Dollar, trained by Bob Meeking for owner Sharon Radke, is not being offered for a claiming price in his subsequent start.

But is the 92 Beyer an accurate reflection of Polish Dollar’s effort June 9? After heavy rains earlier in the week, the day began with the track labeled wet-fast. That was changed to fast after the second race, and the surface continued to dry over the course of the afternoon. Deep closers won the first five sprint races, but by the time Polish Dollar ran in the ninth race, the complexion had changed dramatically and speed horses were dominant. The next day, June 10, was marked by one of the most profound speed biases in recent Emerald Downs history.

It’s plausible that Polish Dollar simply caught a track that was highly favorable to a loose-on-the-lead front-runner and the surface helped carry him to a career-high speed figure (his best Beyer previously was an 81, earned in May 2010). With the surface seeming to change from race to race, trying to pinpoint Polish Dollar’s “number” would necessarily have involved some guesswork. A more precise picture should emerge Saturday, when Polish Dollar tackles fast allowance foes Cat On Base, Newfound Gold, Amazing Legacy, and another sharp claimer, Marvin’s Magic. If the 92 Beyer is a true gauge of his speed, Polish Dollar can be a formidable contender.