06/12/2008 11:00PM

Top three at Emerald tough to separate


AUBURN, Wash. - Bettors will be asked to do what the board of handicappers could not in Sunday's $60,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile, and that is to separate the three highweights.

Nationhood, Wasserman, and Westsideclyde were each assigned 119 pounds, a full three pounds more than Wild Cycle, who has the next highest assignment in the field of seven at 116.

Nationhood, a 6-year-old son of Cherokee Run from the barn of trainer Mike Chambers, earned his share of the highweight honors with a game win in the six-furlong Seattle Handicap on May 4. That was the seventh win from 18 starts for Nationhood, who also won a pair of stakes at the most recent Turf Paradise meeting. Nationhood ran fourth to Wasserman, Westsideclyde, and stablemate Chhaya Dance in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap on May 26, but he was blocked through much of the stretch that day. Jockey Seth Martinez, who rode Nationhood in his last five outings at Turf Paradise, will regain the mount.

Wasserman and Westsideclyde staged a memorable finish in the FSN, with Wasserman getting up in the final stride to prevail by a head after racing far back early. It was the second stakes win for Wasserman, a 6-year-old son of Cahill Road who races for trainer Howard Belvoir. Wasserman won last year's Governor's Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs before finishing a creditable third in the Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile. Jennifer Whitaker, who has ridden Wasserman in all but a handful of his 34 starts, will again have the mount.

Westsideclyde is the defending champion in the Budweiser Emerald, having won the race last year after taking the FSN in his prior outing. Westsideclyde, a 6-year-old trained by Craig Roberts, went to the sidelines with a knee chip after his Budweiser Emerald score and was making his return to action in this year's renewal of the FSN. Considering that he was coming off a layoff of more than 11 months, Westsideclyde ran remarkably well in his comeback race. He may be favored off that effort, plus his record of two wins and a second from three prior mile tries. Gary Baze will ride.

The sleeper in Sunday's field might be Carry On John, a lightly raced 4-year-old from the barn of trainer Pat Mullens. Carry On John, a half-brother to graded stakes winner Harvard Avenue, has won 2 of 4 starts and appears to be blossoming.