04/18/2006 11:00PM

Raise the Bluff tops opening card


AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs will begin a season-long celebration of its 10th anniversary on Friday, when it presents the first of 91 live racing programs at the 2006 meeting.

The meet stretches through Oct. 1, with racing on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through May. Thursday racing will be added to the schedule in June. First post is 6 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

The first of several planned promotions will be held on opening night. Fans will receive an Emerald Downs 10th anniversary sports bag with paid admissions, and one of the bags will have $5,000 tucked inside.

Raise the Bluff headlines the opening night feature, a 5 1/2-furlong allowance test that has drawn a field of six 3-year-olds.

Raise the Bluff, a son of Pine Bluff who races for Ron Crockett Inc., ranked second to only Schoolin You in last year's crop of 2-year-olds at Emerald. After scoring an impressive 6 3/4-length victory in maiden special weight company, he finished fourth to Tusko T in the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes and then engaged in two fierce battles with Schoolin You. He finished second in both of those races, but he was beaten only a half-length in the one-mile WTBA Lads Stakes and just a neck in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity.

Raise the Bluff has worked six times since returning to training here in February, and trainer Junior Coffey admitted that his own moods have been affected by his stable star's works. Coffey was more than happy after Raise the Bluff worked a half-mile in a near-bullet 47.60 on Monday, and he could be even more pleased after Friday's feature. The trainer has named Nate Chaves to ride.

Raise the Bluff could get his sternest challenge from Zillah's Knight, who never finished worse than third in six starts here last season. Zillah's Knight has been away since graduating against $30,000 maidens on Oct. 14, but he has worked steadily and well for trainer Tom Wenzel. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez retains the mount.

Also dangerous are Exclusive Eagle, who graduated at the maiden special weight level here last year, and Coastal King, who finished third to Raise the Bluff's second in both the WTBA Lads and the Gottstein Futurity.

Switzerland and My Friend Luis round out the field.