08/11/2010 10:52AM

One more chance for Ernie Owl

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AUBURN, Wash. – Ernie Owl has failed to find the winner’s circle as the favorite in his past three starts. He’ll get another chance to make amends Friday in the feature race at Emerald Downs, a $15,000 claimer for older horses at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Ernie Owl, a 5-year-old by Tale of the Cat, has had a terrific year by most measures, finishing in the top three in each of his seven starts and earning nearly $30,000. But after four consecutive victories to begin the year – two at Turf Paradise, two at Emerald – he has turned into a bit of a money burner, finishing second in a $17,500 claimer as the 4-5 favorite June 25, third in a $10,000 claimer as the 2-5 choice July 16, and most recently, second for $15,000 as the 2-1 favorite two weeks ago.

Trained by Charles Essex for owner John Chase, Ernie Owl does his best running from just off the pace. If the race unfolds according to form, he’ll assume a stalking position from the outside post in a nine-horse field and let Westsideclyde, breaking from the rail, have the early lead. If he gets a problem-free trip under jockey Anne Von Rosen, Ernie Owl will be hard to beat, though that has been said several times before.

Westsideclyde has run two sharp races since his return from a two-year layoff, though the venerable 8-year-old has yet to post a victory. One of the fastest horses on the West Coast during his heyday in 2006 and ’07, Westsideclyde has run six furlongs in 1:08, 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13.40, and a mile in 1:34.20. Trained by Martin Pimentel, he’ll have the services of leading rider Ricky Frazier.

Gentleman Lawyer, an improving 5-year-old trained by Larry Ross, also figures among the leading contenders. A late-running sprinter, Gentleman Lawyer lost his first 14 starts but has won 3 of his past 6, including a $17,500 claimer at one mile in early July. He stands to benefit if Ernie Owl and Westsideclyde hook up in a speed duel. Kevin Krigger has the riding assignment.

Others in the field are Skyattic, winless in four starts this year; Connor’s Buddy, who has never won sprinting; Leroi Victor, stepping up three levels after winning at 31-1 in his last start; Carry On John, who appears to be primed for a peak effort for trainer Pat Mullens; and longshots One Quick Brew and Robbos Courage.