07/01/2011 4:11PM

Emerald Downs: Wasserman will try to set off fireworks


AUBURN, Wash. – A 10-race card, a fireworks spectacular, and an appearance by one of the most popular horses in track history highlight a festive Sunday at Emerald Downs. Racing begins at 4:30 p.m., a few hours later than usual, to accommodate the fireworks show, which is scheduled to launch at 10:15.

Wasserman headlines the feature race. The “people’s horse” for one glorious summer in 2008, when he captured the Grade 3 Longacres Mile and three other stakes with dramatic rallies, Wasserman has been rounding into fine form yet again at age 9. He’ll attract plenty of interest in the betting as he faces five rivals in a $20,000 claiming race at 6 1/2 furlongs.

A homebred for trainer Howard Belvoir, Wasserman has earned more than $500,000 during his 60-race career, and while he’s been in a funk lately – losing 12 consecutive starts – his most recent effort, a fast-closing second in a $25,000 claimer at one mile, was terrific. If he can muster even slight improvement Sunday, Wasserman can surely make his presence felt in the final furlong. Javier Matias has the riding assignment.

The biggest threat to Wasserman might be a stablemate, Cat On Base, an ultra-consistent 4-year-old who’s finished in the top three in 11 of his 12 starts. Cat On Base is the polar opposite of Wasserman. The latter comes running from the clouds, while Cat On Base has been on or near the lead at the half-mile marker in every start but his first one. But Cat On Base is no rabbit; he finished a close third going 6 1/2 furlongs in a first-level allowance on May 28, and then set the pace before fading to last in the one-mile Budweiser Handicap in his last start June 19. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Leslie Mawing, who entered the week with a narrow lead in the Emerald jockey standings.

Olympic Lights, already a two-time winner at the meeting, is another leading contender. A speedy 7-year-old, Olympic Lights has won 10 of 22 career starts at Emerald Downs. He showed a new dimension in his last start, rallying from midpack to prevail in a $15,000 claimer at six furlongs. Robert Skelly has the call for trainer Charles Essex.

Others in the field are Rescue Plan, who encountered traffic problems when second behind Olympic Lights in his last start; Warrior Jon, an intriguing longshot for trainer Vince Gibson; and Zagreus, who captured a $12,500 claimer on May 27, his first victory since 2008.