05/05/2010 12:00AM

Zagreus has five to beat in sprint

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AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Tom Wenzel is off to a good beginning at Emerald Downs, with 1 win, 1 second, and 1 third in 3 starts. He has hit the board with 10 of his past 12 starters dating to last Sept. 13, when his Have'n a Wild Time ran down Emerald's 2-year-old filly champion, Knight Raider, to score a $56.40 upset in the $50,000 Diane Kem Stakes.

Wenzel can lengthen his streak Friday in the feature race, a first-level allowance for older horses with a $25,000 optional claiming price. The six-furlong dash attracted a field of six, with Zagreus, trained by Wenzel for owner Ron Crockett, among the possible betting favorites. First post is 6 p.m. Pacific, and the feature is the sixth of seven races.

Zagreus was a fast-closing third behind multiple stakes winners Noosa Beach and Winning Machine in a first-level allowance April 18, his first start in a year and his first against older horses. Injuries limited him to just one outing in 2009, but he was outstanding as a 2-year-old in 2008, finishing a close second behind graded stakes winner Gallant Son in the six-furlong Premio Esmeralda and fourth behind Gallant Son in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity.

Crockett, president of Emerald Downs, purchased Zagreus for $41,000 at the 2007 Washington Thoroughbred Breeders' Association summer yearling sale. He's a half-brother to Marva Jean, a three-time stakes winner at Emerald, and Melba Jewel, who captured the 2003 Angie C Stakes and was stakes-placed four other times.

Juan Gutierrez has the riding assignment on Zagreus, whose rivals include former six-furlong track record-holder Starbird Road; He's All Heart; the Crockett-owned Carry On John; Chickasaw Park; and C. R. Sawyer.

Starbird Road figures to attract a lot of wagering support as he dips into the claiming ranks. A 9-year-old trained by Larry Ross, Starbird Road is winless since May 2007, when he sustained a leg injury that sidelined him for nearly two years. In 2006, he ran six furlongs in 1:07.40, a mark that was lowered last summer by Atta Boy Roy. Ricky Frazier was named to ride.

Earlier Friday, jockey Anne Von Rosen has the call on Ernie Owl in the fifth race for trainer Mike Chambers. Von Rosen, a native of Germany, finished seventh with 66 wins in the standings at Turf Paradise, which concluded its 2009-10 meeting Sunday. She is expected to ride first-call for Chambers, who won the Turf Paradise training title by a 62-49 margin over Keith Bennett.