06/22/2012 4:15PM

Emerald Downs: Royal Moses has work cut out for her in Irish Day

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AUBURN, Wash. -- Royal Moses, a beaten favorite in her last start, will try to make amends Sunday in the Irish Day Handicap at Emerald Downs. But after finishing more than eight lengths behind the speedy Exclusive Diva in the Seattle Handicap, even Royal Moses’s trainer, Tim Harder, is skeptical she can close the entire gap in the season’s first route stakes for 3-year-old fillies.

Exclusive Diva stormed to an 8 1/2-length victory in the Seattle and finished full of run. She covered the final sixteenth in 5.85 seconds, leaving the fast-closing Royal Moses in her distant wake.

“Everyone has to beat Exclusive Diva,” Harder said this week. “She looks to be in a different league than the rest of the 3-year-old fillies, and she is bred to go long. If you watch her last race, when Juan [Gutierrez] asked her at the three-sixteenths, she just re-broke.”

Royal Moses had some excuses in the Seattle. After breaking out from the outside post position, jockey Joe Crispin took a tight hold of the filly and steered her toward the rail, a maneuver that left her far back and ultimately in a traffic jam around the turn. Crispin packed his tack this week and moved to Boise, Idaho, and Booger Mitchell will take his place on Royal Moses.

“It wasn’t my plan to take her back to dead last,” Harder said. “The rider did that on his own, so you’ll have to ask him because he never explained it to me. Anyway, he ripped her head off, and then let her roll up to them. It was a curious ride, to say the least. But Joe would have been back on her had he not left town. He has ridden good for me, and he didn’t cost me any money that day. There was no way we were going to beat Exclusive Diva.”

“Our filly’s doing pretty good as far as training,” Harder said. “We’re happy with where she is physically and mentally. We certainly don’t have any excuse going in.”

Exclusive Diva, breaking from the outside post position in a seven-horse field, figures to set the pace, though Lady Hokulea, in her second start following a layoff, could have a say. Royal Moses has made her mark as a late-running sprinter, but Harder said he believes she’s versatile enough to force the issue if that’s how Mitchell chooses to play it.

“I think we could be pace if we wanted to,” Harder said. “We don’t really have a style for our filly going long. She’s only run one route and came back with a problem from the race, so I don’t know what her ideal style is. I think I’ll just let Booger let her run.”

Harder has four horses in his barn, and Royal Moses is the meal ticket. She has finished second three times in stakes while earning $37,665 in five starts. But there’s another runner in the pipeline – a 2-year-old half-brother to Royal Moses by leading Northwest stallion Harbor the Gold, named Notdabossame.

“He’s been kind of a slow learner, but physically, he’s always done well,” Harder said. “He’s been a challenge, but we’ve got a lot of miles in him and he could come to hand quickly.”

Harwood high on Edge Forward

The leap from maiden races to stakes company can be a daunting one, but trainer Doris Harwood is enthused about the prospects for Edge Forward in Sunday’s one-mile Coca-Cola Handicap for 3-year-old colts and geldings.

Edge Forward, a homebred for Ivor and Jack Jones, rallied from just off the pace to track down fast pacesetter Nico Suave in his second career start May 26. In the month since then, Edge Forward has worked three times, each one with a bullet attached. So it’s into the deep end Sunday. William Antongeorgi III has the riding assignment.

“I’m really excited,” Harwood said. “He’s classy, and smart, and tactical … he’s just willing to do whatever the rider asks of him. He can go fast, or he’ll rate. He’s just a really nice horse. He’s been training wonderful, and Billy’s really excited about riding him. He’s bred to go as far as you want a horse to go. It sets up well for him.”

Noosa Beach on target for Mt. Rainier

Noosa Beach, whose June 17 start in the Budweiser Handicap was aborted when he flipped in the gate, will start next in the 1 1/16-mile Mt. Rainier Handicap on July 22, Harwood said. Noosa Beach, Emerald’s horse of the meeting in 2010 and 2011, was set to start as the odds-on favorite in the Budweiser before the mishap.

“He’s missing some hair, and that’s it,” Harwood said of Noosa Beach, who reared and tossed jockey Leslie Mawing through the back of the starting gate. “He was annoyed and irritated when my jockey on Aaron the Baron was whacking him with the stick, and that set him off. But fortunately, the horse is okay, the rider is okay, and the gate crew is okay. He schooled in the gate [Thursday], and the horse is fine.”

“The hard part is that now we have to wait,” Harwood said. “We’ll keep him here and run on the 22nd. In hindsight, we didn’t want to race him a lot this year, anyway, and now we won’t get to. If we’ve got enough horse at the end of the meet, we’ve still got the dream of the Breeders’ Cup. We’ll see what happens.”