09/05/2014 2:19PM

Tollett sends two to Northwest Farms Stakes


AUBURN, Wash. – Bill Tollett hasn’t won a stakes race in ages. He took an overnight handicap with Blue Tarp at Portland Meadows in 2011, but otherwise, it’s been almost eight years since something big has come his way – when Diligent Prospect won a stakes race at Sunland Park in December 2006.

Tollett will have a fighting chance to end his dry spell Sunday, when he sends out two starters – Fine Red Wine and Dance With Effie – in the $50,000 Northwest Farms Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, one of six added-money events for statebreds on Washington Cup Day at Emerald Downs.

Fine Red Wine has started just once, overcoming trouble to take a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race in early June. Dance With Effie has started three times, capped by a front-running maiden victory July 26, and is the quicker of the two. Fine Red Wine may have more potential. That will get sorted out Sunday.

“Fine Red Wine is a nice filly. I think both of the horses I’ve got in will be very tough,” Tollett said. “Fine Red Wine broke a little tardy and got kind of wiped out. She worked her way through traffic and won off by herself. She ran a big race. The rider [Javier Matias] could have ridden either horse, and he picked this one. If she breaks, she’ll be pushing the speed. I’ll guarantee that. And if she doesn’t break, she’ll have to do what she did last time.”

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Pippa Bou Peep is likely to be favored in the Northwest Farms on the heels of her victory in the non-restricted Barbara Shinpoch Stakes in her last start. She’ll break from the inside post, with the potential pacesetter Boss Lori in post 3 and the speedy Dance With Effie in post 6. Tollett said Dance With Effie still is getting the hang of things.

“Her problem is she won’t switch leads. We can’t get her to switch leads,” he said. “But she’s really a nice horse. I don’t know how much speed is in there to go with her, but I think both of my horses will run really well.”

Mullens starts Stephanie Plum

Much like Tollett, trainer Pat Mullens has spent the majority of his career working with claimers. Mullens has had some top horses – She’s All Silk won three stakes races – but the pickings in recent years have been slim. Mullens hasn’t saddled a stakes winner at Emerald Downs since Chickasaw Park took the Chinook Pass Stakes in 2007.

The tide could turn Sunday, when Stephanie Plum starts in the $50,000 Pegasus Training Center Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles. Stephanie Plum has excelled in upper-level claiming races over the past three Emerald seasons, winning seven times, with earnings of more than $83,000. In a five-horse field, she appears to own the controlling speed.

“We know it’s a tough race. We’ve got three tough horses in there besides her,” Mullens said. “I think we’ll run good, but whether we’re good enough to outrun the other three, I don’t know.”

Stephanie Plum is making a very quick turnaround to start in the Pegasus Training Center. She finished second in a $32,000 claiming sprint last Saturday.

“She’s really on top of her game,” Mullens said. “I had some concerns about running her back in eight days, but she’s been doing so well. It’s just a matter of if we’re good enough.”

Stakes shot for Chrissy’s Wedding

The Washington Cup has yielded several longshot winners in recent years, and with $50,000 on the line in each of the six races, there’s ample incentive to shoot for the moon. Chrissy’s Wedding, whose most recent victory came in a $4,000 claimer, will try to light up the tote board in the one-mile Comcast SportsNet Stakes for 3-year-old fillies. Trainer Bob Meeking is keenly aware that she’ll need some luck.

“I can help you if you give me about a 50-yard head start,” Meeking said when asked how one could make a case for Chrissy’s Wedding. “Other than that, I think we’re running for third. We’re obviously trying, but it’s a giant leap to go from $7,500 to a $50,000 stake. But I always had high hopes for her.”

Mylast Sweet Pea and Chu and You, both trained by Robbie Baze, are the horses to beat. Mylast Sweet Pea finished a close second in the Washington Oaks in her last start, and the speedy Chu and You has three career stakes victories. Chrissy’s Wedding is a modest 2 for 5, with earnings of $8,180.

“I think she should break reasonably well,” Meeking said. “She should be able to lay third or so into the first turn under a fairly good hold. And then we’ll hope to hell she finishes strong. I have no doubt about her ability to run the distance. But Robbie Baze looks to me like he should finish one-two. I would be very happy with third. Anything better, and I would be ecstatic.”