07/18/2007 11:00PM

Penney sends out two to beat


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Jim Penney holds a pair of aces in Saturday's $45,000 Premio Esmeralda Stakes for 2-year-olds at six furlongs, the centerpiece of a daylong celebration of the contributions of the Hispanic community to local horse racing.

The Premio Esmeralda, formerly called the Emerald Express, has drawn a field of six headed by the Penney-trained duo of Courageous Son and Gallon.

Courageous Son, a He's Tops gelding who races for R and R Warren LLC, was extremely impressive in winning his debut over $30,000 maidens here on June 24. Despite breaking last of eight from the rail post, Courageous Son took command on the turn and drew out to post a 6 1/4-length victory in a rapid 57.20 seconds for five furlongs.

Gallon, a son of Victory Gallop owned by Mike and Amy Feuerborn, also impressed while running second to the highly regarded Dat's Dream in a July 1 maiden special weight race at five furlongs. Dat's Dream, who was nipped by the stakes winner Smarty Deb in his debut, ran the distance in 56.60, the fastest five-furlong clocking ever recorded by a 2-year-old at Emerald, and Gallon finished only 1 1/2 lengths back.

Both Courageous Son and Gallon were ridden by Gallyn Mitchell in their debuts, and it may be worth noting that Mitchell has opted to ride Courageous Son on Saturday. Leslie Mawing picks up the mount on Gallon.

The Penney trainees figure to get their sternest challenge from Margo's Gift, a son of Polish Gift from the barn of trainer Doris Harwood. Margo's Gift defeated $40,000 maidens in his May 28 debut, getting 4 1/2 furlongs in 51.40 to score by nearly two lengths. That effort has since been flattered by three horses who exited that race to win their next start. Runner-up Portland Storm came back to beat $40,000 maidens on June 17, third finisher Grandest Slam returned to beat $30,000 maidens on June 10, and also-ran Kickapole returned to defeat $12,500 maidens on June 9.

Also entered are Fear No Evil and Initialize, who finished third and ninth after troubled trips in the maiden special weight race won by Dat's Dream on July 1, and Snow in Summer.

Snow in Summer, a son of Siberian Summer trained by Dave Bennett, graduated in his fourth start on July 6 when he defeated modest $7,500 maidens by a half-length in 58.40 for five furlongs.