06/17/2009 12:00AM

Yes Bay can handle price hike


AUBURN, Wash. - A strong field of seven signed on for Friday's feature race at Emerald Downs, a $12,500 claimer for older horses at six furlongs. It's the seventh race on an eight-race program that begins at 6 p.m.

The seven horses have combined for 9 wins in 21 starts in 2009, and three of Friday's leading contenders are coming off victories in their most recent start. It's a wide-open race, though Yes Bay, already a three-time winner at the meeting, figures to attract substantial support in the wagering.

Yes Bay closed smartly to defeat $7,500 claimers in his 2009 debut, stepped up to win for $10,000 in his next start, and then dead-heated for first with Fort Yates in his most recent outing, on May 28. After hopping at the start to lose a few lengths, Yes Bay finished full of run, and he seemingly should have little trouble handling the jump to $12,500. Jennifer Whitaker, who has been aboard for each of Yes Bay's victories, has the call again Friday for trainer Howard Belvoir.

Front-runners Maltese Tiger and Mighty All Star should ensure a fast pace. Maltese Tiger has been first or second in 8 of his 10 career starts for trainer Mike Chambers, and most recently finished a sharp second for $17,500 after dueling through quick fractions. Seth Martinez has the riding assignment.

Mighty All Star won 3 of his 4 starts during a winter campaign at Turf Paradise. He finished fourth in his Emerald Downs debut three weeks ago, tiring in the final furlong after being pushed into a speed duel with the winner. But Mighty All Star doesn't need the lead. Four of his 5 career victories have come from off the pace. Trainer Tim McCanna has named apprentice Cassie Papineau to ride.

If the leaders go too fast early, Yes Bay and Skyrider could benefit. Skyrider closed strongly into slow fractions in his 2009 debut in early May, and then finished fifth, beaten by three lengths, at one mile three weeks ago. Turning back to six furlongs and dropping a class level, Skyrider could be a menacing presence in the final furlong. Leading rider Ricky Frazier has the call for trainer Blaine Wright.

The other starters include Box Top, who won a conditioned $12,500 claimer in his most recent start; Jaton Carries On, who is dropping from $25,000 for his third start of 2009; and Fort Yates, who finished on even terms with Yes Bay when they last met.