09/05/2013 3:40PM

Emerald Downs: Sun City, 9, eyes 22nd win in 101st start

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AUBURN, Wash. – After an even 100 starts, Sun City still has something to offer. The 9-year-old mare, who is likely to be one of the favorites in Saturday’s seventh race at Emerald Downs, has won her past two starts, giving her 21 victories. She’ll shoot for No. 22 in a $2,500 claimer at six furlongs.

First post for the nine-race card is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Sun City has been a stalwart for trainer Joe Toye, who spends summers at Emerald Downs and winters at Turf Paradise in Phoenix. When another trainer claimed Sun City in 2008, Toye claimed her back two starts later. Toye has saddled Sun City for 98 of her 100 starts – remarkable for a horse who has raced almost exclusively in the claiming ranks.

“We bred her, we raised her, we own her, we train her,” Toye said. “She’s been the kind of horse that everybody should own ... she just runs despite whatever happens. She’s been running for seven years straight. She’s got the equivalent of frequent-flier miles on our trailer.”

Sun City has won at least one race at Emerald Downs in six of the past seven seasons. In her most recent victory, she prevailed by a head after a prolonged speed duel over 6 1/2 furlongs.

“She’s been that way pretty much her whole life,” Toye said. “She doesn’t dig in as hard as she used to, but to be a 9-year-old mare and starting 100 times, to dig in that hard was pretty incredible. I thought she was beaten at the quarter pole. But down the stretch, she just kept digging in, and that’s an attribute that she’s had.”

While Saturday is just another date on the racing calendar at Emerald Downs – a $4,000 claimer serves as the featured race – Sun City’s 101st start adds to the day. She’ll break from post 4 with jockey Eliska Kubinova, with seven rivals standing between her and a third consecutive victory. Six furlongs is not her best distance, yet as Sun City has demonstrated time and again, versatility is one of her strengths.

“Her best distance has been 6 1/2 furlongs; she’s never been off the board,” Toye said. “Six furlongs is trickier, but she always invents ways to win.”