05/16/2012 12:02PM

Northlands: Salsa Express facing the boys in Friday feature


There doesn’t appear to be a clear-cut favorite in a $22,000 claiming race that will serve as Friday’s feature at Northlands Park. The six-furlong sprint for 3-year-olds and up drew seven horses, including the 7-year-old mare Salsa Express, who will be competing with males for the first time in her career.

Trained by Ernie Keller, Salsa Express looks capable of winning, and it is reasonable to assume she will run a good race. An Idaho-bred, Salsa Express has compiled an impressive 13-8-6 record from 32 starts. Her last 13 races have been at Northlands and only twice has she finished out of the top three.

She hasn’t raced since she finished fourth as the 1-2 favorite in a $30,000 claiming race for fillies and mares last Oct. 1. She had a big excuse, though, as she was fractious before the start and then spotted the field quite a few lengths when she broke poorly. In her previous race she won a similar race by seven lengths.

Salsa Express is versatile and if she breaks alertly jockey Tony Maragh will either put her on the lead or have her stalk Commanding Ace, who figures to be sent hard from his inside post.

Commanding Ace is coming off a troubled trip going 3 1/2 furlongs in a $30,000 claiming race May 5. Trained by Kelly Grieves, Commanding Ace came back to work a bullet four furlongs in 48.60 seconds May 14 and could be ready for a big effort in his second start of the year.

Mark of a Warrior has been a good claim for trainer Robertino Diodoro, who haltered the 5-year-old gelding on behalf of Stateside Racing for $10,000 at Santa Anita Jan. 12. Diodoro shipped Mark of a Warrior to Turf Paradise where he won two straight races, including a first-level allowance sprint March 11. Prior to coming to Northlands he went unplaced in the $35,000 Coyote Handicap March 24. He has shown speed but in both of his recent wins the came from well back.

Bearcatt is looking for his first win on dirt. He has raced exclusively at Woodbine where he won five races on Polytrack and also ran well on turf, finishing second and third in two starts on grass. In his first race at Northlands, which came for trainer Lianne Knechtel, he ran evenly while checking in fifth in a $30,000 claiming race going 3 1/2 furlongs. This appears to be a much easier spot.

Cases can be made for Bent Tune, Road Talk and Appealing Trip.