08/09/2013 2:23PM

Mike Man’s Gold, Music of My Soul square off again in Emerald Downs Derby


AUBURN, Wash. – Mike Man’s Gold and Music of My Soul will take their budding rivalry to new lengths Sunday in the $65,000 Emerald Downs Derby when they headline a compact field of six horses, all attempting to navigate 1 1/8 miles for the first time. The 11-race card begins at 2 p.m. Pacific.

All six Derby entrants are based at Emerald Downs, and the absence of a shipper to challenge the locals could leave Mike Man’s Gold and Music of My Soul to fight it out from start to finish, much as they did in the 1 1/16-mile Seattle Slew Handicap on July 14. In that race, the two hooked up early and battled tooth-and-nail to the wire before Mike Man’s Gold prevailed by a neck.

Mike Man’s Gold and Music of My Soul have met eight times, and their personal scorecard stands at 4-4. Mike Man’s Gold, a homebred for Keith and Jan Swagerty, has finished in front of his rival in three stakes races. But after Mike Man’s Gold began his 2-year-old campaign with three consecutive victories, he tailed off badly while Music of My Soul assumed command of the division with three successive stakes wins. In the Seattle Slew, Music of My Soul was the 6-5 favorite and Mike Man’s Gold an 18-1 outsider.

Mike Man’s Gold’s form reversal began with a strong runner-up finish in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race in early July (he was moved into the top spot via disqualification) and continued with his surprising effort in the Seattle Slew for trainer David Martinez. Mike Man’s Gold had lost his two previous route attempts by a combined 42 lengths.

Ken Alhadeff’s Music of My Soul, a full brother to two-time Emerald Downs horse of the meeting Noosa Beach, has been first or second in each of his past six starts. After missing by a head to Mike Man’s Gold in the WTBOA Lads last August, he captured a restricted sprint stakes with ease and then took the season-ending Gottstein Futurity in his first test around two turns.

Music of My Soul picked up where he left off this spring, winning the one mile Coca-Cola Handicap in his second start of the year. He’ll break from post 5 with jockey Isaias Enriquez. Mike Man’s Gold will start from post 2 with Javier Matias.

Others in the field include Worldventurer, a double stakes winner in Texas last winter and third in his two starts at Emerald; Finallygotabentley, who captured the 6 1/2-furlong Auburn Handicap in June but was an even fourth, beaten by 3 1/4 lengths, in the Seattle Slew; Valiant Flame, a maiden winner at Golden Gate Fields in June; and possible pacesetter Botch, who defeated $20,000 claimers in his last start.