09/12/2012 3:21PM

Emerald Downs: Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds clash


AUBURN, Wash. – While it’s not the feature race, and the purse is just $4,600, the first race at Emerald Downs on Friday night could be the most entertaining race on the card. An eclectic group of six $7,500 claimers – three Thoroughbreds, three Quarter Horses – will compete over 870 yards, the first such race of the meeting and just the fifth race for Quarter Horses this summer as Emerald winds toward the end of its 81-day meeting Sept. 23.

Bleu Tarp, a speedy Thoroughbred trained by Bill Tollett, could start as the favorite. He’ll break from the advantageous inside post position under record-setting apprentice Eliska Kubinova and is likely to be a pace presence from the opening jumps. Bleu Tarp has six lifetime victories, including a pair at five furlongs, and has been competitive against some sharp sprinters in his three starts at the meeting. Kubinova, who broke the Emerald record for wins by an apprentice with No. 71 last Saturday, was up when Bleu Tarp finished 3 1/2 lengths behind Majorca Gold, a four-time winner at the meeting, in his last start.

The other two Thorougbred starters figure to be outsiders in the betting. Nick’s Gold hasn’t won in more than two years, and Flying Squirrel, while quick from the gate, has been racing in the Northwest bushes and would need a career-best effort to prevail. Flying Squirrel lost by 23 lengths in her only previous start at Emerald Downs.

If those two run to form, Bleu Tarp will be left to battle with the Quarter Horses. His first order of business could be to collar the likely pacesetter, Cosmic Clash, and then he may have to hold off closing bids from Chanac and Junos Last Cat, all three up from Portland Meadows for the evening.

Cosmic Clash, a 4-year-old filly trained by Kim Wales, set the pace before finishing third in the Labor Day Handicap at Portland in her most recent outing. She has a victory at Emerald Downs, in April 2011, and is being reunited with jockey Debbie Hoonan, who has been aboard for five of Cosmic Clash’s seven career victories. They’ll break to Bleu Tarp’s immediate right in post 2.

Chanac was the 9-5 favorite in the Labor Day but acted up before the start and then steadied nearing the turn to lose all chance. But in his previous start, Chanac had no problem reeling in Cosmic Clash en route to a 2 3/4-length victory. He’ll be ridden by Rocco Bowen for trainer Billy Christian.