07/02/2011 10:19AM

Emerald Downs: Two juvenile stakes - and more


AUBURN, Wash. – Emerald Downs will present two stakes races for 2-year-olds Monday on a special Fourth of July holiday card, but with its juvenile program off to a tenuous start – the first race was less than five weeks ago – the two stakes came up light in the quantity department. As for the quality, that remains to be seen – four of the 11 horses scheduled to compete are first-time starters, and four others are maidens after making at least one start.

Both stakes – the Strong Ruler for colts and geldings, the Knights Choice for fillies – are restricted to progeny of nominated stallions, further limiting the pool of available runners. Only seven stallions are represented in the two stakes, each of which carries a $25,000 purse and will be contested over 51/2 furlongs. Chu and I, a dominating winner in his only start, will be a prohibitive favorite in the Strong Ruler. Youtheprizeandi could be odds-on against five rivals in the Knights Choice.

More interesting for handicappers might be the two races leading up to the stakes, which go as races 8 and 9 on the 10-race card. In the sixth race, a first-level allowance with a $32,000 optional claiming price, some of the top older horses on the grounds will trade punches over 6 1/2 furlongs. Tequila Gold, a close third in Governor’s Handicap at the same distance May 22, and Hollywood Harbor, a front-running victor in an allowance fray in his last start, are the leading contenders. Also in the race is Newfound Man, who overcame a serious injury during his 2-year-old campaign to win the Seattle Slew Handicap last summer at 3.

The seventh race is much like the sixth, only it’s for fillies and mares, and the optional claiming price is $50,000 instead of $32,000. No Flies On Doodle, a multiple stakes winner at Emerald Downs and an impressive gate-to-wire winner of her last start, headlines a five-horse field. She could receive a stern challenge from Sis’s Sis, who is winless in three starts this year but won two Emerald stakes in 2010.

Also Monday, the redoubtable West Seattle Boy will try to add to his record total of victories at Emerald Downs. The 12-year-old gelding, trained by Rigoberto Velasquez for owners Lisa Baze and Jerry Carmody, has won 19 times locally during a remarkable career that began in 2001. He’ll be making career start No. 99 in the fifth race, a $5,000 claimer at one mile.