09/21/2011 3:13PM

Emerald Downs: Sweet Saga looks more than ready to take on males


AUBURN, Wash. – With no dominant colt or gelding in the 2-year-old ranks at Emerald Downs, Sunday’s season-ending Gottstein Futurity could fall to a filly for just the fifth time in the past 50 years. In fact, Sweet Saga, winner of the one-mile Barbara Shinpoch Stakes in her last start, could start as the favorite.

Sweet Saga won the Shinpoch with an eye-catching late run for the husband-and-wife training team of Larry and Sharon Ross. She will have an additional sixteenth of a mile to work with Sunday, as well as a couple of eager front-runners to soften things up for the closers. Sweet Saga is a candidate to keep improving in her fourth career start, but even a carbon copy of her most recent effort might be good enough to beat the boys. She covered a mile in the Shinpoch in 1:36.97. A day earlier, Chu and I, Emerald’s leading 2-year-old male, won the WTBOA Lads Stakes in 1:38.43. By the most important measure – speed – the filly looks better than her male rivals.

“We knew she was a nice filly ever since the day we broke her, just the way she went,” Sharon Ross said this week. “She was a little hot, and if we weren’t careful, we could have blown her mind and got her speed-crazy. So we worked with her, walking her to the racetrack, getting her to relax, to act like a classy filly, She’s grown up a lot. She’s big and rangy. We knew when we ran her in the mile race that it would be a distance she’d have no problem getting. It allowed her to get into gear and kick in.”

Owned by her breeders, Gerald and Gail Schneider, Sweet Saga is by Slew’s Saga, a son of Seattle Slew. While she hasn’t been particularly quick from the gate in her three races, she has worked brilliantly, recording four consecutive bullets since the middle of August.

“They’re not even moving on her. All they’re doing is sitting on her,” Ross said of the riders on Sweet Saga, who breezed five furlongs in 58.20 seconds last Saturday. “That’s the scary thing about her. She’s got such a huge stride. You don’t even move your hands on her . . . all you do is just kind of ease her out there and get in stride and just sit on her. She’s doing it under wraps most of the time.”

“We don’t generally run fillies against the boys,” Ross said, “but if you have one that can handle the distance and is as big and strong as she is, it shouldn’t be a problem.”