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Friday Night Lights at Emerald Downs

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I'm heading out to Emerald Downs tonight to kick off the Memorial Day weekend with an eight race card at the Auburn, Washington oval.  The weather in the Seattle area appears to be holding (for the time being), and it looks like we'll have a dry, fast race track tonight.  Of course, in Seattle, you've always got to handicap for the possibility of rain.

A few thoughts on tonight's card:

  • Trainer Charles Essex has a nice looking first time starter in the opening race, 3-Irrepressible (7/2); over the last five years at Emerald Downs, Essex is 4-for-36 with first timers in maiden races (he's 9-for-57 at all tracks). Irrepressible comes into the first race ($7.5k Maiden Claimers, WA-breds) off of a series of nice, consistent morning works and could have a decent chance at early success.

    While I like the looks of Irrepressible, I don't care much for one of the other firsters, 7-Play for Double (9/2).  Trainer Dan Markle is just 1-for-26 with firsters at Emerald over the last five years and Play for Double sports a big gap in his morning works, something I never like to see with a first time starter.  Play for Double started working for the first time in 2011 on March 27th and followed up with a consistent pattern all the way to April 23rd (including 2 successive gate drills).  Then he sat around and didn't put in a published work until May 21st, almost an entire month later.  I don't know the reason for the month gap, but if I had to guess, this colt probably dealt with a fitness issue.  Combine the gap in works with a 9/2 ML and I'll pass on this firster.
  • The second half of the early Double is a $2,500 beaten claimer (no wins since 4/1 or never won 4 lifetime) at a mile distance.  4-Waver Her On (8/5), the morning line favorite, takes a price cut from $5k to $2.5k but is stretching out to a mile, a distance that she's 0-for-7 lifetime at. 

    6-Red Neck Patty (6/1) has run well at the distance in the past (5-3-1-0) but struggled badly in her debut at Emerald in early May. 

    3-Primadonna Pearl (3/1) appears to offer the best of both worlds: she's won previously at the distance, along with prior success over the surface at Emerald Downs.  She's got a touch of tactical speed in her corner and she fits in well at the class level.

  • There isn't a ton of speed in the 3rd race, something that should really help out 2-Leroi Victor (5/2).  He's cutting back from 6 1/2 furlong to six and, while he's not a burner on the front-end, he's got enough gate speed to be right in the early mix.  Combine those factors with a drop in claiming price from $7.5k and Leroi looks very nice in this spot.
  • After knocking on the maiden door for a long time before finally breaking through in her last race on May 14th, 7-Juanita Beach (5/1) wheels right back to work against a group of $2.5k N2L's in the 4th race on the card.  She likes the lead and she's drawn outside of the only other speed threat in the field, Ms Moscow Mattie, a filly that hasn't shown any inclination of a desire to go beyond 5 1/2 furlongs. If Juanita Beach gets comfortable on the front end she might be tough to run down.
  • Trainer Doris Harwood is one of the best conditioners at Emerald Downs but she's not a trainer that makes a lot of claims on a year-to-year basis.  Over the last five years, she's started just 18 horses at Emerald after a claim, but has won with 6 of those (33%, $2,94 $2 ROI).  In short, horses she sends out under those circumstances run very well. 

    2-Jasmine's Melody (5/2) is a first-time-off-the-claim entry for Harwood in the 5th race on the card, an open company $10,000 claiming race at six furlongs.  It's a tough spot for this filly as she's jumping up from open company $7.5k to open $10k.  She'll also have to deal with 6-Touch of Elegance (9/5), a speedy import from Turf Paradise that has dominated in her first two starts at the meet. 
  • 4-Olympic Lights (8/5) ran very well at the $20k level last time out and now takes a 25% price cut in the 7th race on the card.  This gelding was claimed from Charles Essex by Doris Harwood last June and then re-claimed by Essex the very next race (which Olympic Lights won at a $12.5 tag).  After the re-claim, Essex ran Olympic Lights in listed stakes races at Portland Meadows before bringing him back to Emerald for the start of the 2011 meet and a return to the claiming ranks.  He won his EMD 2011 debut on 4/15 at the $15k level, jumped up to $20k and ran 2nd, and now comes back down to $15k.  He'll be tough to beat.
  • I like the looks of the shorten-up of 4-Button Em Up (5/1) in the 8th and final race on the card.  Her first start of the year she ran evenly at 5 1/2 furlongs and then stretched out to a mile in her next start where she ran evenly (again). She should be much fitter in this return to six furlongs and might be able to grind out a victory in this spot at a bit of a price.