05/24/2013 4:00PM

Emerald Downs: Wenzel saddles tough trio in Seattle Handicap

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AUBURN, Wash. – Trainer Tom Wenzel holds an exceptionally strong hand in advance of Sunday’s $50,000 Seattle Handicap at Emerald Downs. Wenzel will send out three starters in the meeting’s first stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and the three – Goin to the Window, Stopshoppingdebbie, and Blueberry Smoothie – could start as the three favorites in an eight-horse field.

The Seattle Handicap, at 6 1/2 furlongs, is the centerpiece of a nine-race card that kicks off at 2 p.m. Pacific. The same post time will be in effect Monday when the long weekend concludes with a special holiday card on Memorial Day.

Each of the fillies in Wenzel’s formidable threesome is a homebred for Jerre Paxton, a member of the Washington Racing Hall of Fame and for decades a leading owner and breeder in the Pacific Northwest. Paxton keeps his top broodmares – many of them stakes winners at Emerald Downs – in Kentucky and spares no expense in the mating game. Goin to the Window, undefeated in two starts last year at 2, is by Tapit, who stands for $125,000. Stopshoppingdebbie is by Curlin, and Blueberry Smoothie is by Giant’s Causeway.

All three will be making their first start of 2013, giving away the advantage of recent racing to three other fillies who have already recorded victories at the Emerald meeting. But two of those – Locket and Song of Seattle – defeated claimers, and the third, Lasting Rose, prevailed in a maiden race.

The only stakes-tested horses set to challenge the Wenzel trio are Innocent Love, who finished second, nearly six lengths behind Blueberry Smoothie, in the 6 1/2-furlong Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at Emerald Downs in September, and Sunset Time, who ran a huge race on the grass in the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland last fall. Sunset Time, recently transferred to Emerald-based trainer Tim McCanna, is winless in two starts on dirt.

Wenzel has been reluctant to run Goin to the Window, Stopshoppingdebbie, and Blueberry Smoothie in the same race. He entered Stopshoppingdebbie in an allowance race for older fillies and mares last weekend, but when a pair of stakes-winning mares signed on, he decided to give the inexperienced Stopshoppingdebbie what he hopes is an easier assignment. In her only start to date, Stopshoppingdebbie set a fast pace in a maiden race and kicked clear to win by seven lengths.

Jockey Juan Gutierrez, who has ridden all three Wenzel fillies, will handle Goin to the Window in the Seattle. That makes her a good bet to lead the charge to the finish line, unless one of her stablemates gets there first.