06/03/2011 12:01PM

Emerald: Rainier Ice in possible stakes preview


AUBURN, Wash. – There’s no stakes race Sunday at Emerald Downs, but the featured ninth race, a first-level optional allowance for 3-year-olds, includes a handful of runners who could be destined for stakes this summer. The race attracted eight entrants who’ll vie over 6-1/2 furlongs for a share of the $17,600 purse. First post is 2 p.m. Pacific.

Rainier Ice has won his past two starts by a combined 15 3/4 lengths and could be the betting favorite, though handicappers might prefer Jebrica, third in the Gottstein Futurity last September in his final start at 2, or Giuseppe G, who has a win and a second in two starts this year. Several others will be well-backed in what might be the most challenging race on the 10-race card.

Rainier Ice, one of the many talented 3-year-olds bred and raced by Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms, will be making his second start of 2011. Rainier Ice lost his debut last August, falling a neck short of Giuseppe G in a $20,000 maiden claimer, and then destroyed a similar group on the final day of the 2010 meeting. After eight months off, he returned in midseason form on May 20. The result was similar – a runaway victory over high-level claimers in fast time – but Rainier Ice showed a new dimension, settling behind runners after breaking slowly, and then powering to the front on the turn. He kicked away under Gallyn Mitchell to win by 6 3/4 lengths in 1:09.30 for six furlongs.

Trained by Tom Wenzel, Rainier Ice earned a 76 Beyer Speed Figure for his recent victory. By that measure, he’s the fastest horse in Sunday’s race, though at this stage in a 3-year-old’s development, improvement can come quickly and dramatically. As good as he’s been in his past two starts, Rainier Ice may have to move forward yet again to beat the likes of Jebrica, who won a maiden race by seven lengths last August before his third-place finish in the Gottstein. He hasn’t raced since then, but he’s been working up a storm since March. In his final tuneup for his 2011 debut, he zipped six furlongs in 1:10.20 last Sunday. Pedro Terrero has the riding assignment for trainer Jim Penney.

Among the candidates to upset the favorites is Marvin’s Magic, who was so well-regarded in 2010 that he went directly from a maiden victory at Emerald into the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship at Hollywood Park. Gdanz Xpress, Advancement, Avalon Beach, and Come Away Home complete the lineup.