05/10/2012 4:37PM

Emerald Downs: Trio of local sprinters relish the course


AUBURN, Wash. -- A trio of horses for the course will tackle a pair of talented newcomers Saturday in an intriguing feature race at Emerald Downs. A $10,000 claimer for older horses at six furlongs, it’s the eighth event on a nine-race program that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Olympic Lights, Buddy Dave, and Polish Dollar have the home-court advantage, if such a thing exists in horse racing. All three have a special affinity for Emerald’s sandy surface – in 76 combined starts at their home track, they have piled up 27 victories and 51 in-the-money finishes.

Olympic Lights could start as the betting favorite on the heels of a narrow loss at a shorter distance in his last start. After surging to the front in the final furlong after circling the field on the turn, Olympic Lights couldn’t hold off Go With Gusto, who closed relentlessly from the back of the pack.

With that tightener in his back pocket, Olympic Lights could be sitting on a peak effort for trainer Charles Essex. Essex has done terrific work with Olympic Lights, coaxing 12 wins and 7 runner-up finishes in 30 starts at Emerald Downs. On Saturday, the 8-year-old Olympic Lights will be reunited with jockey Troy Stillwell, his regular pilot in 2010. Stillwell missed the 2011 Emerald season because of a back injury.

Buddy Dave won six times at Emerald last summer, and while that wasn’t enough to secure claimer-of-the-meeting honors, it was a bang-up showing for a horse who began the meeting in conditioned bottom-level claimers. Buddy Dave made his 2012 debut three weeks ago, closing stoutly to finish second in a $5,000 starter allowance. Leonel Camacho-Flores will ride for trainer Vince Gibson.

Polish Dollar has won three of his past four local starts, capped by a front-running victory against softer in his first start of 2012. He will be ridden by Deborah Hoonan for trainer Bob Meeking.

The locals will have to contend with new shooters Skyribbon, in from Golden Gate, and Highly Decorated, who blasted a weak field at Turf Paradise in his last start. Silver Sneakers, Musical Trick, and Price Giddyup round out the eight-horse field.

Skyribbon, an improving 4-year-old for trainer Blaine Wright, looms large if he takes to the surface. Skyribbon was on a nice roll at Golden Gate, with four consecutive sharp efforts on the Tapeta, and speed tends to be rewarded more often at Emerald than it is on the synthetics.