09/25/2013 3:51PM

Emerald Downs: Southern Solution can stake claim as top claimer with a win

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AUBURN, Wash. – With Emerald Downs claimer-of-the-meeting honors to be announced Sunday on the final day of the meeting, Southern Solution can throw his name into the running with a victory in the feature race Friday, a $15,000 claimer for 3-year-olds at one mile. First post for the seven-race card is 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

Southern Solution has four victories at Emerald Downs this summer, and only one other Thoroughbred has more. Kind of Naughty, who captured an allowance race last Sunday, has five victories at the meeting, three of which came against claimers.

Southern Solution is among a logjam of nine others with four victories, and several of those will make one final start this weekend. Southern Solution is likely to start as the favorite Friday in a seven-horse field, with recent winners Credit Line and Financial Officer also popular in the wagering. Southern Solution was a handy winner of his last start under similar conditions, and the Blaine Wright trainee has been running big races since April, when he prevailed in a $20,000 maiden claimer in his career debut.

Southern Solution will have a new rider, as Isaias Enriquez steps in for Juan Gutierrez, who was injured in a spill Sept. 15 and could miss the balance of the meeting. Gutierrez, who sustained a concussion, and Enriquez have been locked in a battle for the Emerald riding title, and with three days remaining, Gutierrez is clinging to a 96-95 lead.

The race for leading trainer is likewise up in the air. Frank Lucarelli, bidding for his third successive title, begins the final week tied with Jeff Metz, each with 39 victories.

Both Lucarelli and Metz will have contenders in Friday’s feature race. Whiskeyonthehouse finished second for Lucarelli in his first start after being claimed for $7,500. He is likely to be forwardly placed while racing around two turns for just the second time in his career. Metz will send out Barton Hill, a maiden winner at Portland Meadows on Sept. 4 and then second in a $15,000 claimer at Emerald Downs two weeks ago.

The pace could be fast. Financial Officer led gate to wire in his last start, running 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.36, while both Southern Solution and Credit Line scored front-running victories at one mile. Whiskeyonthehouse also could get involved early. Others in the field are Big Question, who has finished in the top three in seven consecutive starts, and Risky Road, who faded to finish fifth as the 2-5 favorite in his last start.