06/06/2012 12:09PM

Emerald: Emancipated looks tough on drop in Friday feature

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AUBURN, Wash. – An evenly matched group of $12,500 claimers will compete over one mile Friday in the feature race at Emerald Downs. The first races goes at 6 p.m. Pacific, and the feature is the sixth event on a seven-race program.

Emancipated, dropping sharply in class, and Swiss Exploit, a front-runner who finished second behind the red-hot Go For Gusto in his last start, will attract plenty of support in the wagering.

Emancipated has eight victories at Emerald Downs, and after making three sprint starts at the current meeting, the Robbie Baze trainee will be stretching out to his favorite distance. Emancipated won a first-level $32,000 optional claimer at one mile in September 2010, and then captured a $15,000 starter allowance at the same distance three weeks later. He’ll have a new rider Friday as Joe Crispin steps in for Jose Zunino.

Emancipated has the versatility to win up front, or to bide his time behind the leaders before making his best move. Swiss Exploit is more of a one-trick pony, with three consecutive front-running victories at Portland Meadows this spring, followed by his sharp try behind Go With Gusto on May 11. Javier Matias has the riding assignment for trainer Sam Dronen.

While Swiss Exploit is quick from the gate, he could have his hands full with a couple of like-minded speedsters. Advancement went gate to wire in a 5 1/2-furlong $12,500 claimer on the first day of the meeting April 13 and could go directly to the front Friday after breaking from the inside post position. But Touch the Sun is fast too – he’s owned the lead at the half-mile pole in each of his five starts at one mile. A fast pace is all but assured.

If the race falls apart and the closers make inroads late, a horse such as Shamundi could run past everyone in the final furlong. Shamundi defeated Oregon-breds in a one-mile stakes race at Portland Meadows in February 2011. His most recent start was compromised when he broke poorly and then raced wide, but now Shamundi moves closer to the rail for his second start following a two-month layoff.

Others in the field are Free Beer, whose lone win this year came on the grass at Turf Paradise; Win Photos Will Do, a late-runner making his second start for trainer Tim McCanna after being claimed April 20; and longshot Rick Ricky, who could offer value on the tote board after breaking in the air in his last start.