04/26/2012 4:01PM

Emeralds Downs: Favorites in feature could have some potential


AUBURN, Wash. – Send Silver and Kooky Saluki, a pair of 4-year-olds with terrific potential, headline the feature race Saturday at Emerald Downs. A $25,000 claimer for non-winners of two, the main event is the eighth of nine races on a program that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Send Silver had an eventful 2011 season at Emerald. After suffering narrow losses in his first two starts, the front-running Marino Marini gelding blitzed a strong group of maidens in his third start. But that heartening effort was followed by a 10-week layoff, and Send Silver’s comeback ended with a last-place finish and another trip to the sidelines for trainer Bonnie Jenne.

With jockey Gallyn Mitchell on his back for the first time, Send Silver will make his first start in eight months on Saturday. They’ll break from the outside in a compact field of five racing 5 1/2 furlongs for a $13,700 purse.

Kooky Saluki was so well regarded last year, trainer Jim Penney gave him a start in the 9-furlong Emerald Derby following a couple of even efforts in allowance sprints. Kooky Saluki finished a distant last, but the balance of his work in 2011 ranged from good (a runner-up finish behind the speedy Rainier Missile) to great (a dominant maiden victory that earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 76).

Penney has named Emerald newcomer William Antongeorgi III to ride Kooky Saluki in what could boil down to a two-horse race. Two other entrants, National and Niccolo’s Dancer, figure to be relative long shots, and the fifth starter, Sharp Focus, hasn’t raced in nearly two years.

Sharp Focus is the wild card. A homebred for bloodstock agent Dana Halvorson, the 4-year-old colt is a half-brother to Daunting, a stakes winner of more than $360,000. While he might be a better prospect around two turns, Sharp Focus has worked forwardly for his new trainer, Chris Stenslie.

Stenslie has been terrific with horses returning from long layoffs, and also with runners making their first start under her care. In his final tuneup, Sharp Focus worked 6 furlongs from the starting gate last Sunday.

Trainer Frank Lucarelli and jockey Leslie Mawing will be absent from Emerald Saturday. Mawing is scheduled to ride Gallant Son for Lucarelli in the $150,000 San Francisco Mile on the turf at Golden Gate Fields, after which Gallant Son could be headed to Emerald for a summer campaign. Gallant Son was Emerald’s champion 2-year-old in 2008.