08/28/2013 2:19PM

Emerald Downs: Southern Solution trying two turns


AUBURN, Wash. – Southern Solution, a speedy sprinter making his first start around two turns, looms the horse to catch and beat Friday in the feature race at Emerald Downs. A $15,000 claimer for 3-year-olds at one mile, the feature is the sixth race on a seven-race program beginning at 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

While the distance is an open question for Southern Solution, he has looked the part of a viable router, rallying from just off the pace in sprints to win 3 of his first 5 career starts. His sire, Southern Africa, was a graded stakes winner at route distances, which seems to bode well for Southern Solution, who will break from the rail and figures to make a beeline for the lead.

The greatest selling point for Southern Solution is the jockey-trainer tandem of Juan Gutierrez and Blaine Wright. Gutierrez, who is closing in on a second consecutive Emerald Downs riding title, has been nothing short of sensational aboard Wright-trained horses over the past two years, winning 22 times from 46 mounts – a 48-percent success rate. Gutierrez replaces Lorenzo Lopez, who steered Southern Solution to a wide and nonthreatening fifth-place finish in his last start.

While Southern Solution is quick from the blocks, he could have company in the early stages, with two other entrants, Star of the Dia and Financial Officer, also making their first start around two turns. Star of the Dia pressed a hot pace in his last start, running the first half-mile in 44.17 seconds and six furlongs in 1:08.70, and is likely to get involved early after breaking from the outside post in a six-horse field. Financial Officer has improved steadily in recent starts and dons blinkers for the first time Friday.

If the pace gets overheated, two others – Whistle Cat and Risky Road – could come into play through the final furlong. Whistle Cat ran a big race in his first route attempt just 13 days ago, fading late to finish third behind He’s Not Bluffin in a $25,000 claimer at one mile. Risky Road captured a $12,500 claimer at one mile in June, coming from well off the pace to prevail by a head.

Chevron Flying, who defeated $7,500 statebred maiden claimers in his last start, rounds out the field.

With 17 days remaining in the meeting, Gutierrez holds a tenuous 83-82 lead over Isaias Enriquez in the jockey standings. Gutierrez will skip Monday’s Labor Day card at Emerald Downs to ride at Portland Meadows, where he has the call on Emerald shipper Rocky’s Quest in the $35,000 Portland Mile.