06/30/2011 2:19PM

Emerald Downs: Post, distance favor Who's Your Next Ex


AUBURN, Wash. – The holiday weekend kicks into high gear Saturday at Emerald Downs with a nine-race card, and while there’s no stakes race on the program, the feature race offers all kinds of possibilities for handicappers. First post time is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Nine horses were entered to run in the headliner, a $12,500 claiming race at one mile, and it’s an evenly matched group. Three of the nine won their most recent start. The other six finished within three lengths of the winner the last time they raced. Moreover, the first four names in the Emerald Downs trainer standings are represented by at least one runner. Perennial champion Tim McCanna has two.

From this tightly bunched group, bettors could make Who’s Your Next Ex the favorite. He’s coming off a front-running victory in his last start and has never finished worse than third in six starts at Saturday’s distance. He’ll break from the inside post position under Deborah Hoonan-Trujillo, who’s been aboard for four of his five victories. Horses breaking from the posts 1, 2 and 3 have won 53 percent of the route races at Emerald Downs this season.

Who’s Your Next Ex is a committed front-runner, and the presence of several other speed horses could complicate the pace scenario for Hoonan-Trujillo and trainer Charles Essex. Snake Attack, breaking from post 2, set the pace in a six-furlong sprint in his last start and figures to be prominent in the early going while racing around two turns for the first time in 2011. Hi and Goodbye went gate to wire in his last start at a mile, as did Big Daddy’s Vision. Certified Diamond, second behind Who’s Your Next Ex in his last start, has plenty of speed.

If the race sets up for a closer, longshot Overtime Victory could be the one. He made up a lot of ground on the turn behind Who’s Your Next Ex on June 12 in a race he likely needed following a seven-month layoff. Overtime Victory finished second at 32-1 in the 2010 Portland Meadows Mile for trainer Jonathan Nance, who is having a remarkable meeting. Nance-trained horses have finished in the top three in 30 of 46 starts (65 percent).

Racing resumes Sunday with a special 4:30 p.m. post time to accommodate Emerald Downs’ annual fireworks spectacular, which is scheduled to begin at 10:15. Monday’s Fourth of July card begins at 2 p.m.