06/12/2013 2:33PM

Northlands: Salsa Express capable of repeat while rising in class

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Salsa Express shoots for her second straight win, and there is a good chance she will get it when she runs in a first-level optional $35,000 claiming race for fillies and mares at Northlands Park on Friday. The 6 1/2-furlong sprint drew five horses and headlines an eight-race card that begins at 6 p.m. Mountain.

An 8-year-old mare, Salsa Express is as sharp as ever and she overcame early trouble to win an optional $25,000 claiming race May 31. It was her ninth win at Northlands Park, and she has only finished worse than third three times in her 27 starts in Edmonton. Salsa Express has been just as reliable throughout her career, compiling a 17-13-10 record from 46 starts for earnings of $254,483.

Trained by Ernie Keller, Salsa Express started the current meet with back-to-back second-place finishes in optional $25,000 claiming races, and her versatility helps set her apart in Friday’s race. She rallied from sixth to win her latest but she has good tactical speed, and with River City Cat being the only other horse in the field with any kind of early lick, it wouldn’t be surprising to see jockey Tony Maragh have Salsa Express involved right from the start.

River City Cat looks like the main threat and figures to improve in her second start at the meet. Trained by Rod Cone, River City Cat ran evenly in a similar race May 17, but it was a tougher field that included four stakes winners, including Claresmiezie who won the race and came back to finish third in the $50,000 Wild Rose last Friday.

River City Cat wasn’t among the early leaders, but she gets in light with Amie Poolie riding and in her three wins last year she was sitting just off the pace before asserting herself in the stretch. Cone has solid stats with horses coming back for a second start following a lengthy layoff, and if River City Cat breaks sharply she could be the one Salsa Express has to catch.

Fleet Mama didn’t make much of an impact in the same race River City Cat exits, but it was just her first start of the year and the stakes-placed filly should move forward with a race behind her. Trained by Ron Grieves, Fleet Mama didn’t win a race last year, but in her last two starts she finished third in the $50,000 City of Edmonton and second in the $50,000 Duchess of York.

Bonita Bella and Crimson Deed complete the field.