Updated on 09/17/2011 10:44AM

Turban figures to get the trip


AUBURN, Wash. - Turban heads an accomplished field of eight in Sunday's $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile.

The Budweiser Emerald field includes Sabertooth, who won last year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile; Moonlight Meeting, the Mile runner-up who was named the meet's top handicap horse; and I'madrifter, a Grade 3 stakes winner in northern California.

Even so, the lightly raced Turban rates top billing. A 4-year-old son of Lord Avie from the barn of trainer Jim Penney, Turban won two of his three starts last year, including an allowance race at a mile. He came into his own this year with a third in the six-furlong Seattle Handicap and a win in the 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap.

In the Fox Sports Net, Turban overtook Sabertooth inside the furlong marker and quickly drew out to a 3 1/2-length score in 1:14. Off that victory, Turban will likely be favored when he breaks from the outside post under Gallyn Mitchell at 118 pounds.

Penney also trains Sabertooth, who was making his first start of the year in the Fox Sports Net and could move forward significantly Sunday. Sabertooth, a 5-year-old, led throughout to win his last two starts of 2002 in the Mile and the 1 1/16-mile Washington Championship. He is again expected to be on the lead Sunday, when he will be ridden by Nate Chaves at 119 pounds.

Whether Sabertooth will have the lead to himself or will be forced to share the pacesetting duties with I'madrifter is a key question for handicappers. Both horses are extremely fast and have proven nearly impossible to catch when allowed to dictate their own fractions, but neither has shown much inclination for coming from even slightly behind.

I'madrifter is a 5-year-old Washington-bred who has made his reputation while racing for trainer Steve Specht in northern California. He has two stakes wins this year, in the Lafayette Handicap and the Grade 3 Berkeley Handicap, both at Golden Gate, and both victories came after he established a clear early lead. Jockey Roberto Gonzalez, who rides at 119 pounds, will doubtless try to duplicate his winning tactics on Sunday, but may find Sabertooth to be an obstacle.

Turban figures to get an ideal stalking trip behind the two front-runners, and Moonlight Meeting should be close behind Turban. Moonlight Meeting will be making his first start of 2003 but has trained forwardly for trainer Sharon Ross, who has named Gary Baze to ride at 118 pounds.