07/18/2013 3:30PM

Emerald Downs: Taylors Deal returns for a tag in Saturday optional claimer


AUBURN, Wash. – Taylors Deal, a stakes winner in Arizona and British Columbia in 2012, will return from a long layoff to make his Emerald Downs debut in Saturday’s seventh race, one of three optional-claiming races on a 10-race card that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Taylors Deal, owned by Glen Todd’s powerful North American Thoroughbred Racing Co., captured the Turf Paradise Derby in February 2012 and won a restricted stakes at Hastings in Vancouver in August, his fifth victory in eight starts. But after a fourth-place showing in the Grade 3 British Columbia Derby the following month, Taylors Deal went to the sidelines, and in an intriguing development for handicappers, will be offered for a $25,000 claiming price Saturday while making his first start in more than 10 months.

Taylors Deal will face an eclectic group of five rivals over 6 1/2 furlongs, with another five-time winner, Kooky Saluki, and the streaking I Keep Saying the most formidable of the lot. Kooky Saluki won the restricted Muckleshoot Tribal Classic at Emerald Downs in September, his fourth victory in eight starts last year, and gets class relief after being outrun in stakes in his past two starts. I Keep Saying, a rapidly improving 4-year-old, has won his past three starts, the most recent a conditioned $25,000 claimer.

Both Kooky Saluki and I Keep Saying are handled by Washington Hall of Fame trainer Jim Penney, and both will have new riders Saturday. Rocco Bowen steps in on Kooky Saluki for Cassie Papineau, who recently left Emerald Downs for Arizona, while Eliska Kubinova has the mount on I Keep Saying. She replaces Isaias Enriquez, who opted to ride another contender, Johnski, for trainer Frank Lucarelli.

Taylors Deal, trained by Mike Puhich and ridden by David Lopez, has enough tactical speed to keep likely front-runner Memphis Beach in striking range. Kooky Saluki and I Keep Saying have similar running styles, and trips could tell the tale. Belt, a 3-year-old who crushed maidens in his last start, completes the field.

In the eighth race, a second-level allowance with a $40,000 optional claiming price, Rocky’s Quest and Polish Dollar are likely to attract the lion’s share of the betting in a five-horse field. The two have combined to win 13 of 23 starts over the past two seasons. Rocky’s Quest owns the tiebreaker, having finished in front of Polish Dollar in their past four meetings.

In the ninth race, a first-level allowance with a $32,000 optional claiming price, stakes winners Sis’s Sis, Carrabelle Harbor, and Cielator headline a competitive 10-horse field. They could have their hands full with the speedy River of Aces, who steps up in class following a front-running victory for $25,000.