06/01/2012 1:37PM

Northlands: Western Woods and Espresso Springs figure to hook up


Western Woods and Espresso Springs guarantee an honest pace in a $30,000 claiming race for 3-year-olds and up that will serve as Sunday’s feature at Northlands Park.

The six-furlong sprint drew eight horses and there isn’t much doubt regarding how the race will unfold. Western Woods and Expresso Springs both want the lead and are in sharp form. Whether either will be able to last the whole way is another question.

Trained by Greg Tracy, Western Woods won for fun when he ran in a $30,000 claiming race going 3 1/2 furlongs May 5, and in his next start he set an honest pace before tiring to finish third for the same price going six furlongs May 21. The speedy 5-year-old horse has won six races in his career and in all six he led from start to finish.

Rico Walcott doesn’t have any options but to send Western Woods as hard as he can leaving from post 2.

Espresso Springs, trained by Robertino Diodoro, has won two of his last three starts, all at Turf Paradise, and he is coming off a win in the six-furlong $35,000 Grand Canyon Stakes for Arizona-breds April 28. A six-time winner, Espresso Springs is a bit more versatile than Western Woods. He came from well off the pace to win a $25,000 claiming race at Santa Anita in 2010, but he was involved right from the start in his other scores and he has also been the one they have been chasing in his last five races at Turf Paradise.

The expected duel should benefit Swiss Ski and Major Temper.

Swiss Ski made strong late moves to win his last three races, all at at Turf Paradise for Diodoro. In his most recent start Swiss Ski came from last to win a six-furlong $10,000 starter race April 30. In his first start this year he was 10 lengths behind Espresso Springs at the first call of a 6 1/2-furlong $12,500 claiming race before launching a strong bid to win by just under a length. Between the two races he won a $20,000 optional race April 13.

Major Temper, trained by Ron Grieves, rallied to finish second in the same race Western Woods finished third in May 21. Major Temper’s only win last year was in his last start, in the 1 1/16-mile $50,000 Alberta Breeders Handicap for Alberta-breds, so he may want more distance. Nonetheless, the way the race figures to set up and considering how well he ran in his first start of the year, he has to rank as a major player.