It's opening night at Emerald Downs and, what do you know, it looks like we might actually get a dry one this year (and MAYBE some sunshine!). Tonight marks the beginning of Emerald's 17th racing season at the Auburn, Washington oval with the opening night card featuring eight races, including a nice assortment of competitive fields in races three through eight. Emerald Downs races every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the spring and summer (with several Thursday nights later in the year). First post on week nights is 6:00pm Pacific, with a 2:00pm start time on weekends.
Let's take a look at the Friday night card for Emerald Downs.
Not a ton to love in the first race but 3-Collaborated should be able to sit just off the cheap speed after taking a price cut following his most recent race at Portland Meadows.
I like the 5-Tactician as a lightly raced, improving colt over the 3-Be There Joe, who comes into this race after taking the winter off. Tactician has enough speed to stalk the early leaders and his conditioning edge should make the difference in the final furlong.
A tough little $7,500 state-bred Maiden Claimer with a big dropper shipping in from Southern California - 6-Mel and Al. He should be the heavy favorite in this spot and will be very tough to beat if he improves at all off of his Santa Anita form. 4-Ace the Bluff has displayed some nice speed in the mornings and is an interesting first time starter for trainer Bill Tollett. Over the last five years, Tollet is 15-for40 with first timers, a 13% win clip, 38% In-The-Money, with a $1.55 $2 ROI.
5-Lullaby Moon ships up from Golden Gate Fields and takes a price cut after finishing 4th in a $8,000 Maiden Claimer. Of his two career starts, his best effort came on synthetic, not dirt. However, his dirt start was vs. $30,000 Maiden Claimers at Santa Anita, so it's tough to get a true read on his dirt ability.
I like the other Golden Gate shipper, 2-Majestic Halo, a daughter of Offlee Wild that might relish a change in surface (all seven career races have been on synthetics). Trainer Tim McCanna has been lights out with shippers coming into Emerald over the last five years; 23-for-82, 28% Win%, 52% In-The-Money, $2,77 $2 ROI. Majestic Halo is my pick and a possible single to start the $0.50 Pick 5.
A field of eight $20,000 Maiden Claimers where it's tough to find a filly to really get behind. Another Golden Gate shipper, 7-River of Aces (trained by Charles Essex), could be tough to handle if she find the Emerald dirt to her liking. Like Tim McCanna, Charles Essex is phenomenal with shipping horses into Emerald Downs - 23-for-92, 25% Win%, 53% In-The-Money, $2.01 $2 ROI.
8-Tizz the Cop, a Portland Meadows shippers, showed speed before tiring in her debut effort against Maiden Special Weights on March 12th. Trainer Jonathan Nance hits at around 11% when shipping into Emerald.
Keep an eye on 2-Deadwood Sage ridden by the five-pound bug from the Czech Republic, Eliska Kubinova, a jock that had a lot of success down at Portland Meadows this winter/spring.
Howard Belvoir's 3-Run Atom makes his first start as a three-year-old after a couple of decent efforts to close out 2011. There should be enough pace to set things up for a closer like Run Atom and he looks to be the strongest of horses that will be coming from off the pace.
1-Marvin's Magic draws the favorite status on the morning line for trainer Frank Lucarelli, but I'm going to go back to another Howard Belvoir horse in this spot, 5-Advancement. He's had a nice, consistent series of works over the past couple of months and he draws outside his chief speed rival, One Lucky Hoss.
Plenty of speed in the nightcap should set things up perfectly for 6-Akina, a Portland Meadows shipper dropping down from an open company $5,000 Claimer to today's $3,500 non-winners of a race in 2011 or 2012 (races for $2,500 or less are excluded).
Akina has run well at Emerald in the past (8-2-1-1), she's solid at the distance (7-2-2-1) and I've already written about the proficiency of Charles Essex when shipping into Emerald.