04/29/2010 12:00AM

Emerald focus turns toward Churchill


AUBURN, Wash. - With the Kentucky Derby front and center Saturday, Emerald Downs will begin its nine-race card at 1 p.m. Pacific, an hour earlier than usual, and then take an extended break between races to accommodate Derby wagering and the simulcast from Churchill Downs. Post time for the Derby is 3:24 Pacific, about 45 minutes after the fourth race at Emerald.

In addition to the main event, local fans will turn their attention to the Grade 2, $250,000 Churchill Downs Stakes at seven furlongs on the Derby undercard. Atta Boy Roy, the champion sprinter at Emerald Downs last summer, drew post 9 in the field of 13 and was listed at 20-1 on the Churchill morning line. Calvin Borel has the riding assignment for trainer Valorie Lund and owners Roy and Ellie Schaefer of Port Orchard, Wash. The Churchill Downs Stakes is scheduled for 12:52 Pacific, shortly before the first live race at Emerald.

Derby Day activities at Emerald include a hat contest, with a $500 gift card award for best in show and free admission for anyone wearing a decorative hat. Mint juleps, served in official Kentucky Derby souvenir glasses, will be available at bars throughout the track for $8.25.

The featured eighth race, a $12,500 claiming sprint for 3-year-olds, attracted a field of eight. Leading contenders include Movie Clip, who finished third in the restricted Strong Ruler Stakes last July, and Fast Trade, who was fourth in the restricted Dennis Dodge Stakes in September.

The usual 2 p.m. weekend post time will be back in effect Sunday, when Emerald kicks off its 2010 stakes schedule with the $50,000 Hastings Handicap for fillies and mares at six furlongs. Six horses were entered, including four Emerald Downs newcomers. Hallelujah Trail, who missed by a length in the Grade 3 Las Flores Handicap at Santa Anita in her last start April 4, is the likely wagering favorite, with Clair Annette and No Flies on Doodle, both two-time stakes winners last summer, close behind.

Also on Sunday, 2008 Emerald Derby winner Gallon will make his season debut in a $21,500 allowance race at 5 1/2 furlongs. His four rivals include Peaceful Reign, winner of the Seattle Slew Handicap last year at 3; Margo's Gift, a four-time stakes winner who has earned $324,369; 2009 Emerald Derby runner-up Rooster City; and two-time Emerald Downs stakes winner Exclusive Eagle.