09/09/2011 3:04PM

Emerald: Include the Baby faces softer competition

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AUBURN, Wash. – The speedy Include the Baby, looking for her first victory of 2011, headlines the feature race Sunday at Emerald Downs. A $17,500 claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs for fillies and mares who have never won three times, The race is the ninth race on a 10-race card that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

A homebred for Mike and Amy Feuerborn, Include the Baby began her career in grand style last April, winning a maiden race by more than four lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 76, but health setbacks limited her to just one more start in 2010. Seventeen months later, Include the Baby is still stuck on one career victory. She has started six times this year and been a runner-up in three of them, most recently in a $25,000 claimer. She’ll face softer competition Sunday and figures to be a short price in the wagering. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez has the call for trainer Jim Penney.

Include the Baby is one of several entrants with a quick turn of foot. With a fast pace assured, the race could set up for Greenback Forest, a late-running sprinter trained by Dan Markle. Greenback Forest is similar to Include the Baby in that she won her racing debut – in April 2009 – and hasn’t won since in a career short-circuited by injuries. Greenback Forest made only three starts in 2010, and has started six times since the Emerald meeting began in April. In her best effort, she finished a close second behind multiple stakes winner No Flies On Doodle in a one-mile optional allowance in June. A repeat of that effort would make her a major player Sunday. Joe Steiner will ride.

Maggie’s Special and Sky Tribute also rank with the leading contenders. Maggie’s Special won a maiden race with speed to spare in mid-July, and then pressed the pace before calling it quits in an allowance race on Aug. 20. If she can move forward in her second start against winners, Maggie’s Special can claim a chunk of the $11,300 purse for low-profile owner/trainer Allen Gideon. Gideon has one win at the meeting, with Maggie’s Special on July 17.

Others in the field include Giocomina, a gate-to-wire winner for $7,500 on Aug. 7; Alki Point, a speedy full-sister to 2010 Longacres Mile winner Noosa Beach; Sky Tribute, a good third against males in her last start; and recent maiden winners Cotillion Belle and Makyva Diva.