Updated on 09/17/2011 10:19AM

Meet begins with U.S. Bank Stakes


AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs will begin its eighth summer meeting on Saturday with a 10-race card featuring the $35,000 U.S. Bank Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs.

The 92-day meeting includes the inaugural Washington Cup Day on Sept. 21, the penultimate day of the meeting. Washington Cup Day will cluster eight stakes with combined purses of $400,000, seven of them for Washington-breds.

Washington Cup Day and the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile, which will be run this year Aug. 24, are the highlights of the meeting.

The opening-day program has mainly eight- and nine-horse fields and a pair of six-horse fields, which may be typical of the early days of the meet. Though workout tabs have been long and the barn area is nearly full, racing secretary Grant Holcomb is still awaiting the arrival of several stables from Turf Paradise, Bay Meadows, and Portland Meadows.

The U.S. Bank Stakes has drawn a field of nine fillies, headed by Top Penny, who is coming off two stakes wins at Turf Paradise. Top Penny, a Washington-bred daughter of He's Tops, won her debut here last August for a modest $8,000 tag, then was claimed out of a win for $16,000 in September by trainer Doug Driever, acting for owner Jim Ingalls.

Shipped to Turf Paradise in November, Top Penny won an allowance in December before scoring in both the six-furlong To the Post Stakes in January and the 6 1/2-furlong Cactus Cup in March.

"She took a big step forward after she turned 3, and part of that was that she learned to rate," said Driever. "We threw a couple of races away teaching her to come from behind, but once she got the idea she really blossomed. Now when she turns for home, she just explodes."

Top Penny figures to get her chief competition from Bisbee's Prospect, an impressive maiden special weight winner here last year who has been working exceptionally well for trainer Bob McMeans, and from Tavy's Plan.

Tavy's Plan, a daughter of the standout racemare Tavy Blue and sire Game Plan, has two sharp wins at Golden Gate this year and is coming off a third to Grade 2 stakes winner Buffythecenterfold in the 6 1/2-furlong Santa Paula Stakes in March at Santa Anita.