07/05/2012 3:27PM

Emerald Downs: Wasserman takes on Rocky's Quest at a mile

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AUBURN, Wash. – Wasserman, one of the most popular horses in Northwest racing history, headlines the feature race Saturday at Emerald Downs. The first race goes at 2 p.m. Pacific, and the main event, a $20,000 claimer at one mile, is the eighth of nine races.

A homebred for trainer Howard Belvoir, Wasserman continues to muster strong closing efforts at age 10, and after three sprint races to begin his 2012 campaign, he finally gets an opportunity to strut his stuff around two turns. Best known for his victory in the Longacres Mile in 2008, Wasserman has two other stakes wins at route distances.

But here’s a remarkable statistic: Wasserman is only 1 for 18 at one mile, his lone victory coming in the region’s only graded race. But he has cashed a lot of checks in 68 career starts, and has won more money at Emerald Downs ($544,781) than any other horse. His longtime companion, jockey Jennifer Whitaker, will be up again Saturday as Wasserman heads inexorably toward retirement. State rules prohibit horses older than 10 from competing in Washington.

Wasserman will be a popular item in the wagering, but Rocky’s Quest is the likely favorite. A 4-year-old with just 10 career starts, Rocky’s Quest has never competed in a stakes race, and his earnings pale in comparison to Wasserman’s. But judging by the Beyer Speed Figures posted by Rocky’s Quest in his past two starts, he’s the fastest horse in the race.

In his most recent outing on June 23, Rocky’s Quest finished a close third behind Go For Gusto in a $25,000 claimer. Go For Gusto, already a four-time winner at the meeting, ran the mile in 1:35.71, and Rocky’s Quest was right on his tail after forcing a fast pace. Trainer Blaine Wright has finished in the top three with 20 of his 32 starters at the meeting, and Juan Gutierrez is Emerald’s leading rider. Everything points to the speedy Rocky’s Quest as the one to beat in a six-horse field.

Others in the field are Free Beer, who rallied from last to win a $12,500 claimer on a sloppy track in his last start; Mr. Mad Max and National, both soundly beaten by Rocky’s Quest in their last start; and Ugottabcatty, who will try a mile after a string of sharp sprint efforts.

Also Saturday, Music of My Soul, a full brother to two-time Washington horse of the year Noosa Beach, will make his career debut in a five-furlong maiden race for 2-year-olds.