06/28/2010 11:00PM

Emerald filly-mare division up for grabs


AUBURN, Wash. - The halfway point of Emerald Downs' 91-day meeting is fast approaching, yet many of the stakes divisions are as muddled as they were the day the meeting began in April. The only certainty is that Noosa Beach is the best horse on the grounds. After that, the plots thicken.

The filly and mare division should come into sharper focus Sunday with the running of the $50,000 King County Handicap, but this is a weak year for older females -- Ladyledue and Elusive Horizon were retired after combining to win seven stakes in 2009 -- and recent defections have eroded the quality even further. No Flies On Doodle, impressive winner of the six-furlong Hastings Handicap on May 2, and the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators Stakes on May 31, is being prepared for a July 24 stakes at Canterbury Park after a last-place finish last Friday in the Saylorville Stakes at Prairie Meadows. Kaweah Princess, a close second behind No Flies On Doodle in an allowance race April 9, is headquartered at Hastings. Hastings Handicap and Washington State Legislators runner-up Hallelujah Trail wasn't nominated for the King County and may be headed back to California.

That leaves Clair Annette and Gadget Queen to duke it out for the division lead. Clair Annette captured the restricted Belle Roberts in her final start last summer but is winless in two starts in 2010. Gadget Queen won a one-mile allowance race at Golden Gate in January but has started just once since, finishing fifth behind No Flies On Doodle in the Washington State Legislators. Gadget Queen has done some of her best work at middle distances and figures to be a strong betting favorite Sunday.

The 3-year-old division, weakened when Hollywood Harbor suffered a season-ending injury in May, was thrown into disarray last Sunday when Koala Beach held off 3-5 favorite Posse Power by a nose in the one-mile Pepsi Cola Handicap. Newfound Man was a neck farther back in a three-horse blanket finish. The 1 1/16-mile Seattle Slew Handicap is next for the 3-year-olds July 25, with the $75,000 Emerald Downs Derby just three weeks after that.

Feeling Fancy, Include the Baby, and Sis's Sis are the leading 3-year-old fillies heading into the 1 1/16-mile Washington's Lottery Handicap on July 11. Noosa Beach, unbeaten in three starts this year, is the early favorite for the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 22. As for the most talented 2-year-olds, it's too early to tell.