07/25/2012 4:09PM

Emerald: Lucarelli has one-two punch in Friday feature


AUBURN, Wash. – A half-dozen promising 3-year-old sprinters will trade blows Friday in the feature race at Emerald Downs, and any of the six could win it. The 6 1/2-furlong feature, a first-level allowance with an optional $25,000 claiming price, is the sixth of seven races on a card that begins at 6 p.m. Pacific.

Frank Lucarelli, who began the week with a 30-26 lead over Tim McCanna in the trainer standings, will send out two leading contenders – the speedy War Wizard to set the pace, and the late-running Brudda Clyde to pick up the pieces. Brudda Clyde could be the favorite when all is said and done, though a couple of others, including the undefeated Run Leyton Run, are sure to attract interest in the betting.

Brudda Clyde was winless in five starts during his 2-year-old campaign but has been a vastly improved horse since returning this spring from a five-month layoff. He stormed to a maiden victory in his season debut, only to be disqualified for impeding a rival at the top of the stretch, and finished first again in his next start. Lucarelli then pushed Brudda Clyde into deep waters and he responded with a sharp effort in the 6 1/2-furlong Auburn Handicap on June 3, moving to join the leaders on the turn before tiring to finish fifth. Brudda Clyde has trained forwardly over the past eight weeks and would seem to be sitting on a peak effort. Gallyn Mitchell has the riding assignment.

Like his stablemate, War Wizard has reached the wire first in 2 of 3 starts at the meeting. He took a $20,000 maiden claimer in his season debut, and then a $17,500 claimer for nonwinners of two, both in front-running fashion. War Wizard had the misfortune to run into Italian Boy in his last start and couldn’t hold off that rival after zipping through a half-mile in 43.53 seconds and five furlongs in 55.70. But War Wizard’s effort was validated when Italian Boy won a stakes race in his next start, and War Wizard is likely to set a more moderate pace Friday under William Antongeorgi III.

Run Leyton Run and I Keep Saying could offer stern challenges to the Lucarelli pair. Run Leyton Run, trained by Junior Coffey, has yet to be challenged in two starts, both against softer competition. If he passes the litmus test Friday, Run Leyton Run could be headed for stakes engagements. The same applies to I Keep Saying, a fast-improving Jim Penney homebred who routed maidens in his last start.