09/20/2010 11:41AM

Season's final week begins with rare weekday matinee

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AUBURN, Wash. – The final week of Emerald Downs’s 2010 season includes a few peculiarities. There’s racing Wednesday, the first non-holiday midweek program in several years, and the card begins at 1 p.m. Pacific, a departure from the usual 6 p.m. weekday start time.

After a dark day Thursday, the 90-day meeting concludes with racing Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, Saturday’s program features the first Quarter Horse race in Emerald Downs’s history, as well as the Blue Mountain Championship, a race restricted to Thoroughbreds who have started at least once this year on the Washington and Oregon fair circuit.

Sunday’s highlight is the $75,000 Gottstein Futurity, augmented by the Ashbaugh Beal Claiming Challenge, a series of starter allowances for horses who have competed at various claiming levels in 2010. Total purse distribution for the six Claiming Challenge races is $72,000.

Wednesday’s matinee was a late addition to what was originally an 89-day meeting. The early start gives track management a chance to gauge interest in daytime racing on weekdays, while also taking advantage of simulcasting opportunities on a particularly slow day on the national racing scene. Emerald will operate directly opposite a 1 p.m. card at Fairplex Park in Pomona, Calif., the only other West Coast track to conduct racing this Wednesday.

The feature race is a $25,000 claimer for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. Leading contenders include Howmuchisit, a winner under the same conditions Sept. 10; Koala Beach, who captured the one-mile Pepsi Cola Handicap in late June; Fisher Creek, a two-time winner for $25,000 at the meeting; and Cat on Base, who has yet to be worse than third in eight career starts.

◗ After conducting gate and timing tests last week, everything is in place for the Quarter Horse race Saturday. If entries fill as expected, 10 horses will sprint 350 yards in the $10,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Dash/John Deere Bonus Challenge. Entries will close Wednesday morning.

◗ Ricky Frazier, who holds a commanding 111-88 lead over Juan Gutierrez in the jockey standings, will be absent Wednesday and Friday while serving a two-day suspension levied for a riding infraction aboard Orange Sherbet in the sixth race Aug. 26. Frazier had previously appealed the suspension, but withdrew the appeal last weekend.

◗ Leading trainer Tim McCanna will send out four starters Wednesday. McCanna needs four victories over the final four days to break his own single-season record of 66 wins set in 2008.