04/23/2002 11:00PM

Short fields and only seven races


AUBURN, Wash. - The shortage of entries that has plagued other West Coast tracks hit Emerald Downs on Wednesday, when director of racing Grant Holcomb was able to fill only seven races with 43 horses for Friday's card.

"It's the first time in my career that I've only been able to fill seven races," said Holcomb, who served as racing secretary at Longacres and Yakima Meadows before taking his current position in 1996.

Although disappointed, Holcomb is convinced that the shortage of horses ready to race is temporary.

"We have 1,308 horses on the grounds right now, and that should be enough," he said. "The problem is that a lot of them are a week or two away from running, owing mainly to the wet spring. Races that were filling at this time last year, especially the 2-year-old races, aren't filling yet."

Friday's feature, the sixth race, drew a field of six 4-year-old fillies, each eligible to be claimed for $12,500 or $10,000, to vie over six furlongs.

Jeni's Tough Night, a winner over maiden special weight company here last season, may be the one to beat under apprentice Kris Prather at 112 pounds.

Like her rivals, Jeni's Tough Night will be coming off a layoff, but she has trained forwardly for trainer Dan Kenney, who sent out two winners during the first week of the Emerald meet.

In addition to the live races, Emerald will offer wagering on seven simulcast programs, beginning with Calder at 9:25 a.m. and continuing through Aqueduct, Keeneland, Turf Paradise, Lone Star, Hollywood and Bay Meadows.

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