04/20/2011 2:38PM

Emerald tries to follow up on good start


AUBURN, Wash.– Following a prosperous opening weekend in which betting handle was up 17.9 percent from the corresponding period in 2010, Emerald Downs begins its second week of racing Friday at 6 p.m. Pacific.

Featured on the eight-race card is a $25,000 claimer for 3-year-olds. Five horses were entered in the 5 1/2-furlong dash, with Tactician, a winner in his only 2010 start, and Touch the Sun likely to attract the lion’s share of the wagering.

Tactician, trained by Blaine Wright for owners John and Janene Maryanski, zipped to an impressive victory June 27, spurting to the lead from an outside post position going five furlongs, putting away his primary pace competitor, and then holding resolutely to win by 1 1/4 lengths in 57.80.

Tactician has worked steadily for his first race in 10 months, and the well-bred son of Good Reward might be a step quicker from the blocks than Touch the Sun. Touch the Sun led all the way in a $20,000 maiden claimer for statebreds in his second start last September, and then forced a fast pace before fading to finish fourth in his first start against winners two weeks later.

Tim McCanna trains Touch the Sun for owner Gary Hughes, who purchased the horse for $15,000 at the 2009 Washington summer yearling sale. The Maryanskis paid $33,000 for Tactician at the same sale. Joe Crispin has the riding assignment on Touch the Sun, and Juan Gutierrez, early leader in the Emerald standings, will handle Tactician.

Giuseppe G, another promising 3-year-old who hasn’t raced this year, also appears to be a leading contender. Trained by Vann Belvoir for owners Ron and Nina Hagen, Giuseppe G was soundly beaten in his final two starts of 2010, both stakes races, after posting a narrow victory in a $20,000 maiden claimer in late August. He’ll be ridden by Javier Matias.

Topper’s Trooper and Rainier Missile complete the field. Topper’s Trooper has raced twice at Portland Meadows for trainer Eric Jensen, crushing maidens in his debut but fading badly to finish sixth, beaten 21 lengths, as the betting favorite in the Willamette River Stakes on March 7.

Rainier Missile needed eight races to finally beat maidens, but did so impressively, cruising to a 2 1/4-length victory in a $20,000 maiden claimer at Turf Paradise on April 2. Rainer Missile, trained by David Bennett, recorded a 75 Beyer Speed Figure, easily the highest in Friday’s field.