04/21/2011 2:43PM

Emerald Downs: Wenzel has high hopes for promising filly Elusive Noise

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AUBURN, Wash. – Trainer Tom Wenzel will send out Zagreus in the feature race Saturday at Emerald Downs as he attempts to kick-start what could be a lucrative summer.

Wenzel finished 15th in the trainer standings in 2010 but has more horseflesh to work with this year. Zagreus is one of more than 30 runners currently under his care, a considerable increase from 2010, when he saddled 15 winners from 85 starters and captured a pair of stakes.

He’s already off to a promising start: His only starter during opening weekend, the 3-year-old filly Elusive Noise, made quite a splash in her career debut, cruising to a six-length victory while running five furlongs in 56.80 seconds. Her effort earned a 70 Beyer Speed Figure, four points higher than what the 3-year-old male Avalon Beach earned for his win in a stacked maiden race a day earlier.

Wenzel, 45, is guardedly optimistic about Elusive Noise, just as he once was about Zagreus, a star-crossed 5-year-old who was stakes-placed as a juvenile in 2008 but, sidelined for long stretches because of injury, hasn’t won since.

Elusive Noise, owned by Jerre Paxton, was purchased for $110,000 at Keeneland’s all-ages sale in January 2009. By Elusive Quality from the Broad Brush mare Noisette, she had 13 recorded workouts at Emerald Downs in 2010, the last on Aug. 13, but never raced. She picked up again with Wenzel in early March and was ready to roar last Sunday. Jockey Juan Gutierrez sat chilly as she pulled away through the stretch.

“I don’t think Juan hit her; she drug him to the wire,” Wenzel said. “It’s hard to know how good she is. My feeling is, she’s got a pretty big upside. Look at her pedigree. Elusive Quality has had some top national horses, Quality Road, Smarty Jones, and this one’s mother was a very talented filly as well.”

Paxton, an owner and breeder with deep pockets, transferred all of his horses to Wenzel this spring, further swelling the ranks. But Wenzel lost his stable star over the winter, too, when champion 2-year-old filly Lady Golightly was stricken by pleura-pneumonia, a debilitating lung disease, and then laminitis.

“We hope we can get her to a place where she can bear weight so she can maybe have a future as a broodmare,” Wenzel said of Lady Golightly, who is convalescing at owner Mary Lou Griffin’s farm in Buckley, Wash. “It’s touch and go, but she’s very tough, this horse. It looked like she was going to be a very solid filly.”