The eighth Washington Cup kicks off at Emerald Downs today at 2pm Pacific. The card will feature six stakes races restricted to Washington-bred horses, including the Muckleshoot Tribal Classic featuring Longacres Mile winner Noosa Beach.
Here's a look at some of the horses that caught my eye on the Washington Cup card.
Race 4: JK Fletcher - 1 mile, 3yo, Fillies
With a small field of five it's hard to get by what should be a very heavy favorite, 2-Zenovit (4/5), the recent winner of the 1 1/8 mile Washington Oaks back on August 14th. That race represents her only win of 2010 but she really towers over this field on class.
If I was going to take a stab at an upset in this race it would be with the 1-Knight Raider (5/1), a Tribunal filly trained by Doris Harwood. Harwood dominates stakes at Emerald and she's got a filly that should be the easy leader in this race. A mile is probably the upper limits as to how far she wants to run but a light pace should make it easier to stretch out. I'm not sure she's talented enough to hold off Zenovit, but I think she represents the best chance to bring home a price in this race.
Race 5: Belle Roberts - 1 1/16 miles, 3up, Fillies & Mares
3-Clair Annette (7/5) ran in the Emerald Distaff last time out and finished dead-last by almost 20 lengths as the 2/1 favorite. Not sure what happened to her in that race other than just quitting after six furlongs. She's been the best older female on the grounds this season and a return to her normal form would give her back-to-back wins in this race but it's hard not to be a bit concerned with that last effort.
With the uncertainty surrounding Clair Annette I like the 5-Private Fortune (5/2) in this spot after he solid second to Zenovit in the Washington Oaks. This filly likes to do her running from the back of the pack and I think she'll get enough of a pace on the front end to soften up the leaders in the stretch. If speed ends up playing well then this filly is probably not going to be a very good pick in this spot; the track conditions could decide which direction to go in this spot.
Race 6: Diane Kem - 6 furlongs, 2yo, Fillies
8-Lady Golightly (2/1) failed to break her maiden in her first two career starts ($30k Maiden Claimers and Maiden Special Weight competition) and then rolled the field of the Barbara Shinpoch Stakes by 3 ½ lengths as a 20/1 shot. Not sure what change took place between those maiden efforts and her maiden-breaking stakes win but she obviously figured something out during that time. She'll be shortening up today from a mile, which could be a bit of a concern but a race anywhere close to her last one should be good enough to win in this spot.
1-Allison Ridge (6/1) tried stakes fillies earlier in the meet (7/18 Knight's Choice) and didn't fare to well after a rough trip and a less than ideal running position. She got back to running on the front end for her last two starts and noticed back-to-back wins against $12.5 maidens and $12.5 claimers. She could be lone speed in this spot but she'll need to get an extra furlong to prevail. She could be in the mix if the fractions are soft enough.
Race 7: Muckleshoot Tribal Classic, 1 mile, 3up
The feature race of Washington Cup VIII also has the heaviest favorite on the card, Longacres Mile winner 3-Noosa Beach (1/5). If the Doris Harwood trainee were to win the Muckleshoot he will become the first horse to win five stakes at Emerald Downs during a single meet. Noosa Beach is the best horse in the state right now and the Muckleshoot should be the final jewel in an impressive 2010 season.
If a horse was to pull an upset of Noosa Beach (and I really doubt that will happen) I think the 5-He's All Heart (10/1) would be the likely spoiler. Class-wise he's nowhere near Noosa Beach but He's All Heart does run well at the mile distance (7-2-2-1) and he's got the patience to sit off the early pace and make a move when coming into the stretch. I don't like him in the win spot but he might make sense in a cold-punch exacta multiple times with Noosa Beach as there could be some value in that play. The pre-race Exacta probable's should indicate whether that's a good bet or not.
Race 8: Chinook Pass, 1 mile, 2yo, Colts & Geldings
Sophomore colts and geldings finish get their shot in the Chinook Pass, a race with a highly competitive field of ten. I like two horses in this spot, both at decent prices.
7-Absolutely Cool (15/1) just broke his maiden against $30k optional Maiden Claimers by 9 ½ lengths going wire-to-wire, and that was after getting roughed up leaving the starting gate. He's very short on class against a tough field but I like the possibility of this gelding leading the field into the final turn. He needs to stay at high odds on the board for me to stick with him as he doesn't represent enough value to me if his odds were to drop below 12/1.
2-Wheelhouse (10/1) is another lightly raced gelding in a field with experience. Wheelhouse defeated Absolutely Cool in his last race and comes into this race with a couple of recent morning works at 7f. This race is a big step up in class for this gelding but he's drawn into a field that, while very competitive, doesn't contain a massive favorite. Like Absolutely Cool, Wheelhouse's odds need to stay above 10/1 to keep my interest.
Race 9: Dennis Dodge, 6 ½ furlongs, 2yo, Colts & Geldings
Named after long-time Daily Racing Form columnist/handicapper in the Northwest who passed away in 2008, the Dennis Dodge Stakes completes the Washington Cup with a race featuring juvenile colts and geldings.
6-Winter Warlock (2/1) grabs morning line favoritism following his win in the Primo Esmeralda and a runner-up finish in the WTBA Lads. The gelding that defeated Winter Warlock in the WTBA Lads, 7-Couldabentheshisky (5/2), draws to his outside.
I'm going to go with another recent maiden winner stepping up in class as I like 1-Mack's Gold Bullet (4/1). He needs to get away in good order to avoid being boxed in down on the rail but if he can secure good position within the first quarter mile I like his chances to give the rest of this field a run for their money.