06/15/2010 11:00PM

Polo Bender eyes four in a row


AUBURN, Wash. - Still going strong at age 9, Polo Bender will try to become the first four-time winner at the 2010 Emerald Downs meeting when he starts Friday in the feature race, a $10,000 claimer at six furlongs. Racing begins at 6 p.m. Pacific, and the feature is the seventh of eight races.

Polo Bender had a woeful winter at Portland Meadows, finishing second six times in 11 starts and losing three times for the rock-bottom claiming price of $2,500. But he has always loved the racing surface at Emerald Downs, a fact underscored May 2 when he rallied to beat $7,500 claimers in his first start at the meeting.

Trainer Rigoberto Velasquez dropped Polo Bender into a $5,000 claimer in his next start May 16, and the horse won easily. He moved Polo Bender back up to $7,500 on May 30, and he won that one, too. Velasquez has five wins at the meeting; Polo Bender has accounted for three of them, all with Juan Gutierrez in the saddle.

The prototypical horse for the course, Polo Bender has 10 victories in 20 local starts, with the restricted Chinook Pass Stakes in 2005 his greatest triumph.

While the betting public adores Polo Bender -- he has been 3-1 or lower in his past nine starts - he figures to have his hands full Friday. Six of his seven opponents have posted victories at the meeting, and the one who has not, Maltese Tiger, could be the wagering favorite.

Maltese Tiger has finished first or second in eight consecutive starts. Polo Bender? He has been part of the exacta in nine consecutive outings.

Trainer Mike Chambers has named Anne Von Rosen to ride Maltese Tiger, who finished second behind the streaking Bijou Barrister in a $10,000 claimer in his last start May 21. Bijou Barrister returned to win again last Sunday, his seventh consecutive victory.

Other top contenders are Polish Dollar, a three-time winner at the meeting; Dirty Shirt, who rallied to win a conditioned $12,500 claimer in his last start; and Vickys Fast Boy, who won five consecutive races last summer during his 3-year-old campaign.

The rest of the field includes So Whatabout, who will make his first start for trainer Tim McCanna after being claimed for $5,000 in his last start; Amante Mio, who won a $7,500 claimer in his most recent outing; and Highdleburg, the fifth-place finisher behind Polo Bender on May 30.