06/21/2013 3:35PM

Emerald Downs: Wenzel sends strong trio in Irish Day Handicap

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AUBURN, Wash. – Trainer Tom Wenzel looks to have his rivals surrounded Sunday in the $50,000 Irish Day Handicap at Emerald Downs. Only six horses were entered to compete in the meeting’s second stakes race for 3-year-old fillies, and Wenzel has the three leading contenders with Stopshoppingdebbie, Goin to the Window, and Blueberry Smoothie, who ran first, second, and third in the Seattle Handicap on May 26.

In the Irish Day, Wenzel’s powerful trio will stretch out to one mile after Stopshoppingdebbie took the 6 1/2-furlong Seattle in a quick 1:14.41. None of Wenzel’s three – all homebreds for Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms – has raced around two turns, which might increase the possibility of an upset if there is a legitimate challenger in the field. And in Sunset Time, trainer Tim McCanna might have a horse to light up the tote board.

Sunset Time, owned by Seattle native Dave Mowat’s Ten Broeck Farm, took an unusual path to Emerald Downs. She began her career in Kentucky last spring, spent the summer of 2012 in New York, wintered in Florida – where she won a first-level allowance race at Tampa Bay Downs in December – and then moved on to Louisiana for a couple of starts before being shipped cross-country to Emerald Downs and McCanna.

In her first local start, Sunset Time finished a well-beaten fourth in the Seattle Handicap, though there were mitigating factors. Sunset Time wasn’t particularly sharp following nearly three months on the sideline, and that was compounded by an eventful trip that left her and jockey David Lopez in the middle of the racetrack through the stretch. The rail has been the place to be at Emerald for most of the meeting, which began April 19, and Sunset Time surely was compromised by the wide run.

Sunset Time, by Johannesburg, has valuable experience around two turns, even if those races were on turf. In her best effort to date, Sunset Time set the pace before yielding to miss by a length in the Grade 3 Jessamine at Keeneland in October. The level of competition was formidable in the Jessamine – seventh-place finisher Pure Fun won the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet in December and third-place finisher Summer of Fun returned to run third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf. It should not be hard to imagine Sunset Time being a strong presence in a stakes race at Emerald Downs.

Stopshoppingdebbie, who won the Seattle by 1 1/2 lengths to remain unbeaten after two starts, is likely to start as the favorite. Stopshoppingdebbie earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 82 for her latest victory, and her breeding – by Curlin, from a Wild Again mare – points to a horse bred to run all day. She figures to be prominent early, while Sunset Time bides her time in the middle of the pack.