06/15/2009 11:00PM

Random Memo back from road trip

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AUBURN, Wash. - After a disappointing campaign in Northern California, Random Memo returns to Emerald Downs on Thursday to headline the feature race, a $12,500 claimer for older horses at one mile. It's the seventh race on an eight-race program that begins at 6 p.m.

Random Memo raced exclusively at Emerald Downs for six years, winning the 2004 Tacoma Handicap at 3 and finishing third in the Emerald Downs Derby. He was stakes-placed at 4 and 5, but his career has taken a downward turn in recent seasons, and he was out of the money in his past three starts, all $12,500 claimers at Golden Gate Fields. After racing on grass and synthetic surfaces in California, the 8-year-old gelding returns to the dirt at Emerald Downs, where he has won 6 of 33 starts and earned $140,701 for owner Frank Gaunt.

Seth Martinez is scheduled to ride Random Memo, a versatile horse who can win from on the pace or from a tracking position. With a couple of fast sprinters in the seven-horse field, Martinez and trainer Howard Belvoir may elect to take back and let the pace develop in front of them. Split the Check and Snark both won sprinting in their most recent outings, and D Devil ran a series of sharp one-turn races at Turf Paradise this spring.

Escalante figures to attract a lot of support in the wagering. A five-time winner at one mile, he won twice for $20,000 at Emerald Downs last summer and most recently finished fourth after setting a pressured pace against $15,000 claimers. Dropping another level for his third start following an eight-month layoff, Escalante should be prominent from the start. Gallyn Mitchell has the riding assignment for trainer Frank Lucarelli.

Plain James is another leading contender. He won his first start around two turns last summer, rallying to win a $10,000 claimer at 20-1. He's stretching out Thursday for trainer Rosie Simpkins after closing strongly to finish third at six furlongs in his 2009 debut. Debbie Hoonan-Trujillo is scheduled to ride.

The remaining horse is Military Deputy, a marathon winner at Hastings last November. He'll be coupled in the wagering with Snark; both horses are trained by Larry Ross for owner Rick Beal.

Racing continues through the weekend, culminating Sunday with the $50,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap for older horses at one mile. Wasserman, who won the 2008 Longacres Mile, and Kruger Park, a two-time stakes winner at the current meeting, top the list of nominees.