07/06/2009 11:00PM

West Seattle Boy eyes record

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AUBURN, Wash. - Still going great guns at age 10, West Seattle Boy can tie the record for career victories at Emerald Downs on Thursday - in a $25,000 claimer written for horses who have never won twice.

Chalk it up to the fine print, whereby maiden races, claiming races, and starter allowances for $22,500 or less are excluded from the conditions, giving West Seattle Boy, a 15-time winner at Emerald Downs, a fighting chance to join Market Master and Bob Stories as the most prolific winners in the track's 14-year history. Trainer Rigoberto Velasquez has named Seth Martinez to ride West Seattle Boy, who figures to be a lukewarm wagering favorite in the field of six.

West Seattle Boy's odyssey began in 2001 with a victory in his 2-year-old debut. In addition to the maiden victory, he has won 12 claiming races, a starter allowance, and a handicap sprint, the only strike against him under Thursday's conditions. He has won for eight jockeys and four trainers, and during one frustrating stretch went more than three years without a victory at Emerald Downs.

Remarkably, he has won 5 times in his past 8 starts while climbing the ladder from $5,000 to $25,000. His most recent outing, in which he closed with a rush to defeat a strong group of $25,000 claimers on a speed-favoring surface, was one of his best ever.

"This is the best he's been, now that he's 10," said Velasquez, who has trained the venerable gelding since owners Lisa Baze and Jerry Carmody claimed him for $5,000 in 2004. "We'd love for him to break the record. He deserves it. He's been a really good horse."

Velasquez has been down this road before. He trained Market Master during his 11-year-old season in 2005, when the gelding won four times to claim the track record, since tied by Bob Stories. Velasquez has a master's touch with older horses, and it helps that West Seattle Boy is willing and able.

"He's a high-energy horse," Velasquez said. "On race day, he's on his hind legs more than all fours. He likes his job, and he doesn't have any soundness issues. We didn't want to run him for $25,000, but there was no other spot for him. Now the wins record is the goal."

Including his 13-race campaign at Portland Meadows in 2002-03, West Seattle Boy has won 19 of 80 career starts and earned $147,525. His competition for the winner's share of the $14,250 purse Thursday includes front-runners Scalding Passion, Morgan's Money, and Robbos Courage, as well as fellow closers Poncho and Red Redding.