04/12/2005 11:00PM

Meet opens with strong purses


AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs launches its 10th season Friday with purses up about 16 percent from last year to an estimated $106,400 per day, a record for the track. The increase was made possible by a $1.6 million contribution to the purse account from the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, which owns the property on which the track sits.

Director of racing Paul Ryneveld said horsemen have responded by bringing 1,113 horses to the track, and he estimated that the track's nearly 1,400 stalls will be full by May 1, when the meets of competitors Portland Meadows and Turf Paradise have ended.

The 2005 meet will run 101 days, 12 days longer than last year, through Oct. 16. First post on weekdays, including opening day, is set for 6 p.m., while a new weekend and holiday first post of 2 p.m. will be in effect.

Among the stars from last year's meeting who are expected to race here are Aunt Sophie, who was named the top filly or mare at last year's stand; Willie the Cat and Slewicide Cruise, who shared sprinter of the meeting honors; and Flamethrowintexan, who was the meet's top 3-year-old last year.

The Bud Klokstad-trained entry of Beau Maggie and Sky Harbor, both owned by Art McFadden, figures to be formidable in the opening-day feature, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance for 3-year-olds. Klokstad is the track's all-time leading trainer in stakes wins, with 38 stakes victories, and either or both of his Friday entrants could add to that total.

Beau Maggie, a son of Slewdledo, earned his maiden win in his third start here last year. He won in $40,000 company by almost 10 lengths in a rapid 1:03.80 for 5 1/2 furlongs. He confirmed his quality when he went to Golden Gate Fields and won a $40,000 starter allowance race in December, covering the six furlongs in 1:10.60 on a muddy track.

Sky Harbor, a son of Skywalker, was also precocious at 2. Sky Harbor opened his career with four consecutive seconds, including a runner-up finish in the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes. Then he graduated at the maiden special weight level. He returned and ran third in the WTBA Stakes at a mile, before racing unplaced in his final two starts as a 2-year-old.

The Klokstad-trained entry figures to be tested by Magna Tice and Tomorrow's Turn, who finished second and third in last year's Captain Condo Stakes at six furlongs.