06/16/2011 2:47PM

Emerald Downs: Snowbound Marquita fastest of bunch

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AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs will present a 10-race card Saturday, a weekend warm-up for the main event on Sunday, when Noosa Beach put his five-race winning streak on the line in the Budweiser Handicap. Saturday’s main event is less momentous – a $12,500 claimer for fillies and mares who have never won three times. Racing begins at 2 p.m. Pacific and the feature is the ninth race.

Snowbound Marquita almost assuredly will be the betting favorite if she starts. A quick 4-year-old roan, she has put together two strong efforts in 2011 and owns the controlling speed in Saturday’s field. In her season debut on April 24, she led past ever pole to beat $12,500 nonwinners of two by nearly two lengths while running 5 furlongs in 57.87. She came back with an even better, though non-winning, effort in her next start, when she chased Cliff’s Secret all the way around the track to finish second in a first-level optional allowance. Cliff’s Secret covered the distance in 1:08.54, the fastest six furlongs through the first 28 days of Emerald’s 82-day meeting.

Snowbound Marquita earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 74 for her most recent effort. None of her seven rivals has run faster than a 60 Beyer Figure this year. Some of those challengers are eligible to improve with additional racing, but going into Saturday, Snowbound Marquita looks to be a couple of lengths faster than any other horse in the race. Trained by Charles Essex, she will be ridden by Robert Skelly.

Burgundy Hill, a recent maiden winner, and Lilly’s a Jewel, soundly beaten at higher class levels in her first two starts of the year, are the leading win candidates should Snowbound Marquita falter. Burgundy Hill skipped away to win a $20,000 maiden claimer by more than six lengths on May 30. Lilly’s a Jewel most recently was last, beaten 13 3/4 lengths, behind Cliff’s Secret and Snowbound Marquita on May 22. Lilly’s a Jewel was stakes-placed last year at 3, when she closed well to finish third in the one-mile John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes. An equipment change (blinkers on) could help move her forward Saturday as she makes her third start following a seven-month layoff.

Others in the field are Outing Mail, who has finished third or better in her past eight starts; Tarabunal, who missed by a neck in a $10,000 claimer in her last start, class dropper Debbie’s Ferrari, and probable long shots Slewperslew and Carina Run.