06/29/2004 12:00AM

At long last, a stakes for Villyard


AUBURN, Wash. - Aubrey Villyard, the trainer of Random Memo, was clearly nervous as they loaded the 3-year-olds into the gate for Sunday's $42,250 Tacoma Handicap at a mile.

"I'll be glad when this is over," he said.

As it turned out, Villyard was glad when the Tacoma was over. That was because Random Memo went to the front and never looked back, drawing off to win by 4 1/4 lengths under Gallyn Mitchell in 1:35.80. Pool Boy held second as the slight 2-1 favorite over Random Memo, while Jablunkov Pass got up for third in the field of eight at 18-1.

"Aubrey told me if he won a stakes he could quit," said Mitchell. "I hope he doesn't do that, but I'm really glad I could finally win a stakes for him."

Villyard, who has trained a small stable at mostly minor tracks for more than 30 years, did win a stakes with Sat in Session at Yakima Meadows back in 1993. He did not have the stock, however, to compete in stakes company at Emerald Downs until owner Frank Gaunt gave him Random Memo to train last year. Gaunt had recently purchased Random Memo, a full brother to the good Southern California runner Enzo the Baker, at the Barretts horses-in-training sale in March for $40,000.

Villyard made the most of his opportunity, guiding Random Memo to two victories and a third-place finish in the WTBA Lads Stakes from five starts as a 2-year-old. Random Memo began his 3-year-old campaign with a second-place finish in the six-furlong Auburn Stakes on May 2, then finished a close fifth in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap on May 31 before giving Villyard his first stakes win at Emerald on Sunday.

"This is my biggest win, and Random Memo is the best horse I have ever trained," said Villyard. "He is all class. He is so laid-back around the barn, never a problem, but when he steps out onto the track he is all business."

Villyard said Random Memo will continue along the path to the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby at nine furlongs on Sept. 6, which follows the $65,000 Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 31. But if the trainer was so nervous before the Tacoma, how will he handle the pressure of the Derby?

"I hope by then I'll have a little more practice," he said.

Good overcomes bad

Cascade Corona had everything against her in Saturday's $40,000 King County Handicap at a mile. Making just her sixth career start and her second start of the year, the 4-year-old Cascade Corona was conceding both experience and conditioning to all eight of her rivals. Then she drew the outside post, which forced her to be sent early to avoid losing too much ground on the first turn. Finally, she was pressed hard through six furlongs in a murderous 1:09.80.

She did have three things going for her, though. She was trained to the minute by Jim Penney, an original inductee into the Washington Racing Hall of Fame. She was ridden by Gallyn Mitchell, Emerald's all-time leader in wins and stakes wins. And she was blessed with a world of ability.

Cascade Corona used her assets to overcome the obstacles, drawing away through the stretch to win by more than four lengths over favored Lasting Code in 1:36.20.

The victory, which could only be called definitive, was the first in a stakes for Cascade Corona, a daughter of Pine Bluff and the exceptional producer Warna Corna. Cascade Corona races for her breeders, Rick and Debbie Pabst, but that was not by design.

"We actually ran her through the sale with a $30,000 reserve, but she didn't even get a bid for $20,000," said Debbie Pabst. "Later we were glad, because her dam died in January and we lost the Silver Charm filly she was carrying. Now Cascade Corona is the only filly we have left to carry on Warna Corna's line."

The Pabsts wanted Cascade Corona to prove herself on the track before taking on broodmare duties, and she did that in spades on Saturday. Debbie Pabst said she will have more opportunities.

"We're going to continue racing her as long as she stays sound," she said. "We think she is the most talented horse we've ever had, so we hope she can have a long career."

Peery a good investment so far

Longshot artist Melissa Peery was at it again last week, winning Thursday's nightcap aboard Nicotea for a $17 win payoff, then scoring again in Friday's last race on Bollywood, who paid $64.80 to win.

Peery has now won with 6 of her 31 mounts at the meeting for an average win payoff of $36.13 and a return on investment of over $6 for every $2 invested on her mounts.

Youcan'ttakeme retired

Trainer Grant Forster said that Youcan'ttakeme, named horse of the meeting after winning all four of her starts last year at Emerald, has been retired with a tendon injury.

Youcan'ttakeme, a 4-year-old daughter of He's Tops who raced for breeder Herman Sarkowsky, ended her career with seven wins from 15 starts for $199,975 in earnings.

Qualifying tournament returns

On July 25, Emerald Downs brings back the Ultimate Qualifying Tournament for the Daily Racing Form/ National Thoroughbred Racing Association National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. The largest qualifying tournament in the country, it holds nine spots in the championship and a $10,000 grand prize.

The tournament, with no entry fee, is open to the first 400 people to register. Registration is available through the track's customer service department at (253) 288-7711 beginning July 7, at 9 a.m. Pacific.