08/23/2007 11:00PM

Stakes serve as sales pitches


AUBURN, Wash. - It's always nice to see older siblings give their younger brothers and sisters a helping hand, and that happened repeatedly during last weekend's stakes action at Emerald Downs. Horses who distinguished themselves in the $100,000 Washington Oaks, the $100,000 Emerald Distaff, and the Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile boosted the stock of their siblings scheduled to sell in the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association's annual summer yearling sale, which will be held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 4 in the M.J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion.

Firetrail, for example, certainly distinguished herself while running second, beaten only a half-length by Rivoltella, despite losing both front shoes in Saturday's sloppy running of the Oaks. In so doing, she burnished the credentials of her little sister, who will sell as Hip No. 66 in the sale. It doesn't hurt that Hip No. 66 is one of 13 yearlings in the sale by Cahill Road, who is also the sire of Sunday's Longacres Mile winner, The Great Face.

Eclatante, third in the Oaks, also cast some reflected glory on HipoNo.o11, her half-brother by Memo.

She's All Silk, a stakes winner here in each of the last two seasons, didn't add to her black type in Sunday's Distaff, but she did set all of the fractions before yielding late to Gemstone Rush, Fortunate Event, and Beaulena. Her show of speed was a reminder that Hip No. 190, a half-brother by Free at Last, has the potential to be exceptional in his own career.

Sunday's biggest hero, of course, was The Great Face, and the Mile winner flattered the entire sale. He himself was a graduate of the breeders association's summer sale in 2004, when he brought a bid of $21,000 from owner Ron Crockett. He was the first WTBA sale graduate to win the Mile since the race was moved to Emerald Downs in 1996, and as such he became, as Crockett predicted, the poster boy for this year's sale.

Washington-breds ran first, third, and fourth in Sunday's Mile, and the fourth finisher, Schoolin You, is another with a sibling in the Sept. 4 sale. That colt, Hip No. 95 is a half-brother to Schoolin You by Slewdledo.

Two of the three 2-year-old stakes winners at the Emerald Downs meeting also have siblings in the sale. No Constraints, the winner of the recent Knights Choice Stakes, has a full sister (by Katowice out of Nightatmisskittys) who will sell as Hip No. 160. And Margo's Gift, who won both the Premio Esmeralda and the Strong Ruler, has a half-brother by Cahill Road who will go as Hip No. 37.

New proposal to aid two Cup Days

Both British Columbia Cup Day, which is contested annually at Hastings Park in early August, and Washington Cup Day, which is staged each year at Emerald Downs in late September, have proven to be successful, attracting bigger than average crowds and producing better than average handles. Could they be more successful still?

From a fan's perspective, they certainly could. Both programs have at times suffered from small fields and uneven competition. The Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society and Hastings Park tried to address those problems last year by opening up three of the B.C. Cup Day races - the Sprint, the Distaff and the Classic - to B.C.-owned horses as well as B.C.-bred horses. The reaction of B.C. breeders was mixed, at best.

"It caused a firestorm," said the horse society's president, Dixie Jacobson, who also said that a recent poll of the society's membership revealed that a majority favors returning to the restriction that all participants in B.C. Cup Day races be B.C.-breds.

Still, the problems persists, and management at Emerald Downs has proposed a modest solution. Why not open up the B.C. Cup races to Washington-breds and the Washington Cup races to B.C.-breds? That would certainly alleviate the problems with field size and competition for both programs, and it would enhance the natural rivalry that has existed for many decades between Washington and British Columbia horsemen. It would be like a more genuine and easier-to-stage version of the Florida-California card of Sunshine Millions races, but with two days of racing instead of one. Call it the Rainy Riches.

When Emerald Downs first proposed the idea last year, it drew an enthusiastic response from Hastings Park and a quick endorsement from the breeders' association. The horse society balked, however, and that is why it was not implemented this year. The idea is not dead, though.

"We do have an interest in exploring the idea," said Jacobson. "It was just sort of thrown at us last year, and it was right at the time we were trying to deal with the controversy we created by opening up the B.C. Cup races to B.C.-owned horses. I think we should consider it. We need to get all the parties together for a dialogue to see how it might benefit us and what the problems might be. We're not saying no. No way. We'd just like to know more about how it might work before we jump into it."

Photo montage to benefit day care

Emerald's track photographer, Reed Palmer, has donated a framed montage of pictures celebrating Street Sense's victory in this year's Kentucky Derby to benefit the Emerald Downs day-care center.

The montage, signed by both trainer Carl Nafzger and rider Calvin Borel, is on display in the Quarter Chute Cafe, which is open to the public. It will be sold via silent auction, and bids can be made through the Quarter Chute Cafe's proprietor, Sally Steiner.

Whoever has made the highest bid when the Emerald Downs meeting ends on Sept. 30 will get the montage.