06/29/2009 11:00PM

King County more than one-horse race

Email

AUBURN, Wash. - Gadget Queen is the horse of the moment in the filly-mare division at Emerald Downs, a distinction she earned with a snappy victory in the Washington State Legislators Handicap on June 7. She looms a strong favorite Saturday in the $50,000 King County Handicap as the fillies and mares navigate two turns for the first time this season.

Only eight others were nominated for the one-mile King County, and a few of them would be prohibitive longshots were they to start against Gadget Queen, a 5-year-old who won the nine-furlong Belle Roberts in her final start at Emerald Downs last summer and finished a close second to Victorina in the 1 1/16-mile Campanile Stakes at Golden Gate Fields this February.

But Elusive Horizon and Enumclaw Girl, who combined for four stakes victories at age 3 last summer, would be worthy challengers to Gadget Queen.

Elusive Horizon finished third, less than four lengths behind Gadget Queen, in the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators after stalking a withering pace. The extra distance Saturday should play to her strength. She's undefeated around two turns, with victories last year in the Washington Lottery Handicap at 1 1/16 miles and the Washington Oaks at nine furlongs. Elusive Horizon led gate to wire in both races, but trainer Doris Harwood said she doesn't need the lead.

"If they offer it to her, we won't turn it down," Harwood said. "But she sure rated well in her recent starts."

An impeccably bred filly by Elusive Quality from the Unbridled's Song mare Exogenetic, Elusive Horizon signaled her readiness when she breezed four furlongs in 47.60 last Thursday.

"She was supposed to go 49-and-change," Harwood said. "But Juan [Gutierrez] said she took hold of the bit and took over. She's coming up to this perfectly."

Enumclaw Girl is returning to the races after a seven-week freshening that included some time on the farm. She won the one-mile Irish Day Handicap last June and was narrowly beaten by Sweetheart Deal in the one-mile John & Kitty Fletcher Stakes in September.

"I think a mile is her best distance," trainer Rosie Simkins said. "She's been back at the track for a couple of weeks and she's had a couple of good works. She's ready to go."

Trainer Valorie Lund will take a shot at Gadget Queen with Screaminleapofaith, a middle-distance turf specialist who hasn't raced since she finished second May 2 in the restricted Desert Sky Handicap at Turf Paradise. Though she has local connections - owners Jim and Louise Kiser live in Tumwater, Wash. - Screaminleapofaith has run just once at Emerald Downs, and 17 of her 23 starts have been on turf courses in Minnesota or Arizona.

"She's a big, stout mare who has run her best races on the grass," Lund said. "The burning question is, how will she handle the surface? The race looks tough, but she's a good closer who shows up every time."

Trainer Pat Mullens nominated She's All Silk for the King County, though he'd prefer to run his three-time stakes winner in an allowance race Friday.

"I know she's not this good anymore," Mullens said of She's All Silk, who hasn't won since 2007 but was a sharp third in a $20,000 claimer in her most recent start. "But I think her confidence got a boost in her last race, and I think she can come back to her form if I get her pumped up a bit. We can outrun a few of these. I think we would be the speed in there.

"But Gadget Queen looks like a special filly," Mullens allowed. "She should be the favorite."

Hagerty now a journeyman

Originally scheduled to lose his apprentice allowance last Thursday, jockey Matt Hagerty opted to shed his bug a couple of weeks before the deadline. Hagerty, 19, tacks from 118 to 121 pounds and the weight allowance wasn't being utilized. Making a change before the deadline allowed him to get on with the second stage of his riding career.

"I didn't want to keep being overweight and hurting the horses," he said between races Sunday. "I've won a few races since then, so it didn't hold me back."

Hagerty sits eighth in the jockey standings with 15 wins from 170 mounts. He's been a good hand with longshots; his average $2 win mutuel is $18.80, and he scored a $37.60 surprise with Yoursmynanours in the second race Friday.

"It's been a pretty decent meet so far," he said. "Most of the time I don't get dealt the favorites; those usually go to Ricky [Frazier] or Seth [Martinez]. But I try my hardest and I get what's coming to me."

Trainers Roy Lumm, Larry Ross, Dan Kenney and Joe Toye gave Hagerty a leg up last week, though Vince Gibson has been his primary benefactor. Hagerty credits Gibson, a former rider, with teaching him the ins and outs, and Hagerty's first career victory came aboard a Gibson-trained horse, Pavan Raj, last June 12.

"Vince is my so-called Papa; he got me going," Hagerty said. "And it looks like Joe Toye is going to keep me going."

Hagerty, who grew up in nearby Buckley, Wash., praised first-year jockey agent Todd Pedersen for placing him on live horses. Hagerty said he could win a couple of races Thursday, citing 2-year-old filly Courageous Jamie (third race) and veteran claimer Point Dume (seventh race) as horses to watch.

Super Dixie a filly to reckon with

Super Dixie returned from an eight-month layoff in dazzling fashion Sunday, winning a second-level allowance for 3-year-old fillies in 1:15.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs. Ridden by Frazier, she engaged in a race-long duel with No Flies on Doodle through splits of 22.00 and 44.60 and won drawing clear.

Super Dixie's emphatic return energizes an already competitive 3-year-old filly division and could present Frazier and his agent, Boone McCanna, with a juicy dilemma. He's the regular rider of Ladyledue, who is undefeated in five starts and has won three consecutive stakes at the meeting.

"I was impressed," Frazier said of Super Dixie, whose female family includes 2005 Longacres Mile winner No Giveaway and renowned racemare Supercilious. "I've always been impressed with her. But right now, there's no decision to be made, and when there is, it won't be up to Ricky Frazier, it will be up to my agent."

* The jockey colony thinned last week when Freddy Fong Jr. and apprentice Karin Kisfaludy packed up and departed. Fong rode 32 winners at Turf Paradise last winter but was 0 for 49 at Emerald Downs. Kisfaludy recorded her first career victory aboard Bold Officer ($50.20) on May 16, her only win in 15 mounts.