07/21/2010 1:40PM

Skyrider closing in on an Emerald victory


AUBURN, Wash. – Skyrider, a 12-time winner at Emerald Downs, tops a field of eight older horses in Friday’s feature race, a $7,500 claimer at one mile. The feature is the sixth of seven races on a card that begins at 6 p.m. Pacific.

Skyrider won three times in 2009, all at a mile, once for $10,000, once for $12,500, and, on the final day of the meeting, in a $15,000 starter allowance. The 9-year-old is winless in four starts this year but has been inching closer to a victory. In his most recent start, June 24, he pressed a fast pace before giving way to finish fourth in a $12,500 claimer, less than four lengths behind the winner.

Skyrider stands to benefit from the drop in class and the addition of jockey Ricky Frazier, who was aboard for two of his victories last summer. Trained by Blaine Wright, Skyrider has won 13 of his 48 career starts and earned $153,554.

Inhoc Signo Vinces, winless in five starts in 2010, figures to attract considerable support in the wagering. A 4-year-old trained by Rigoberto Velasquez, he won two one-mile races last summer and finished a close third after pressing the pace in his most recent start at the distance July 4. Inhoc Signo Vinces loses Frazier to Skyrider, but picks up veteran Miguel Perez, who returned to Emerald from New Mexico last week.

Skyrider is most effective when he settles near the back of the pack and makes one concerted run. Inhoc Signo Vinces does his best running from just off the pace. They’ll both have to catch Proud Nicholas, a speedy sprinter who set a quick pace (44.60 seconds for a half-mile) in his last start before fading in the stretch to finish sixth, more than seven lengths behind the winner in a $10,000 claimer at six furlongs.

Proud Nicholas won a one-mile allowance race for 3-year-olds last August by 9 3/4 lengths with an 80 Beyer Speed Figure, and with no other committed front-runners the field, he could prove difficult to run down. Juan Gutierrez has the riding assignment for trainer Howard Belvoir, who has two horses in the field. The other, Platinum Katillac, has two runner-up finishes at the meeting but hasn’t won a race in two years.

Others in the field are Icy Ridge, stepping up three class levels after a sharp effort for $3,500 in his season debut, Best Indy West, Pure Silver, and Leroi Victor.