05/08/2013 3:17PM

Emerald Downs: Touch the Sun sharp for meet debut

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AUBURN, Wash. – After a successful winter in Arizona, Touch the Sun returns to Emerald Downs on Friday to headline the feature race, a $17,500 claimer for Washington-breds at six furlongs. First post for the seven-race card is 6:45 p.m. Pacific.

Touch the Sun, a 5-year-old Bertrando gelding, started seven times at Turf Paradise and finished worse than third just once. In his best effort, Touch the Sun finished second to the red-hot Why Not Be Perfect in the one-mile Hank Mills Sr. Handicap on March 1. Trained by Frank Lucarelli, Touch the Sun has been idle since then, but his recent work tab at Emerald Downs, including a best-of-the-morning six-furlong breeze April 28, suggests he can retain his sharp edge following the short layoff.

The bigger issue for Touch the Sun is the distance. He’s a standout at middle distances, with five of his six career victories coming at one mile or 1 1/16 miles. He did score his maiden victory at Friday’s distance, however, and Touch the Sun will have hot-riding Emerald newcomer Isaias Enriquez in the saddle for the first time. Over the first three weeks of the meeting, Enriquez has 3 victories and 6 seconds in 11 starts for Lucarelli. Enriquez and Touch the Sun will start from the inside post position in a seven-horse field.

Another leading contender, City Twister, will break from the opposite end of the starting gate. A speedy 4-year-old for trainer Dan Markle, City Twister has already raced once at the meeting. He pressed a fast pace in a first-level optional claimer April 20 before fading to finish fourth behind a sharp winner, Polish Dollar. The fractions were hot – 56.21 seconds for five furlongs – and City Twister could get a more relaxed pace setup in his second start of the year. Markle has been terrific with horses making their second start following a layoff of six months or longer, winning with 4 of his past 12. Jose Zunino has the riding assignment.

Newfound Man also is sure to attract a lot of betting interest. The Blaine Wright trainee hasn’t started since last May, when he missed by a nose in a $25,000 claimer, but has a history of sharp efforts following a layoff. Newfound Man, a stakes winner at Emerald in 2010 but winless since, has been working forwardly for Friday’s race and picks up Juan Gutierrez, Emerald’s leading rider.

Others in the field include 2008 Longacres Mile hero Wasserman, He’s All Heat, and front-runners Memphis Beach and Tough Road Ahead.