09/01/2009 11:00PM

Run Royal Reign going good at Emerald


AUBURN, Wash. - A $12,500 claimer for older horses tops an eight-race card Friday evening as Emerald Downs kicks off the Labor Day weekend and heads into the final four weeks of racing.

The holiday weekend culminates with the 72nd running of the $75,000 Emerald Derby on Monday, a prelude to Washington Cup Day next Sunday, when horses bred in Washington and British Columbia will compete in seven stakes for a guaranteed $350,000 in purse money.

Seven horses signed on for Friday's feature, a one-mile test for nonwinners of three races. Run Royal Reign, second in his past two starts, and class-dropper Sharper Eagle figure to attract a lot of support in the wagering, with King Congo the other leading contender.

Run Royal Reign, a 4-year-old trained by Petra Lewin, won his racing debut at Emerald Downs last September, beating $17,500 maidens by nearly nine lengths, and captured a $12,500 claimer at Golden Gate in December. Laid up from January until July, he finished last in his return, but then was second behind next-out winner Jake La Gold for $12,500 on Aug. 6, and second, a neck behind Hickory Road, for the same price two weeks ago. Stretching around two turns for the first time Friday, Run Royal Reign will break from the rail under Troy Stillwell.

Sharper Eagle, a 5-year-old trained by Martin Pimentel, has competed against some tough older horses in his four starts at the meeting. He most recently was fourth, seven lengths behind the winner, Stormy Seattle, in a $15,000 claimer at one mile Aug. 1. Sharper Eagle has worked forwardly for Friday's race and will get some weight relief with apprentice Cassie Papineau picking up the mount.

King Congo has won twice at the meeting, both against 3-year-olds at one mile. He won a $7,500 maiden race May 24, and then a $12,500 claimer for nonwinners of two in his next start. Claimed for $15,000 on July 26, he'll make his second start for trainer Dan Markle on Friday. Emerald Downs's leading rider, Ricky Frazier, has the call.

The rest of the field: Off the Heezy, who is 2 for 3 at Friday's distance; Musical Trick, a sharp third in a $10,000 sprint in her last start; Last Time Around, who has failed to hit the board in two starts since being claimed for $7,500 on July 16; and Born'n Blue Genes, who finished far back in a $30,000 claimer in her most recent outing.