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$50K Emerald Express draws large field as 2YO stakes action begins on Sunday

July 26, 2013     E-mail this page to a friend!

The largest stakes field of the season gathers on Sunday when 11 2-year-old colts & geldings square off in the $50,000 Emerald Express at six furlongs.

The crowded field includes seven horses coming off victories and one-first-time starter, Illumination Road, who has recorded five recent bullet drills at Emerald Downs.

Selecting a morning line favorite could prove difficult for Emerald Downs line maker Rob Rao, but trainer Doris Harwood figures to have top contenders with Harbor the Gold geldings Kenai King and Del Rio Harbor. Kenai King rallied to nip Italian Warrior at 4½ furlongs, earning a 56 Beyer after running 4½ furlongs in :51.21, and Del Rio Harbor emerged from that race to win a five-furlong dash in :58.84, earning a 42 Beyer.

The track’s all-time leader with 57 stakes wins, Harwood also has been the top 2-year-old trainer five of the last seven seasons including a record 21 wins with juveniles in 2009. So Harwood knows a thing or two about 2-year-olds, and added she likes the chances of both horses Sunday.

“I am very pleased with both colts and how they are training up to the race,” Harwood said. “I’m counting on them finishing one, two.”

Harwood said Kenai King gets bonus points for winning first out.

“Any time you run a first-time 2-year-old starter it’s really which one is the bravest and you can’t teach them that,” she said. “ As good a job as I try to do, it’s up to them in the afternoons to really try and show up. Kenai King showed up in his first race because the dirt didn’t scare him and he was the bravest.

“(Del Rio Harbor), if you look at the form, you can see that I added blinkers in his next race, which gave him a little more focus. He got out of the gate better and he broke his maiden. He still outworks Kenai King in the morning. Which one is better? I don’t know.”

Trainer Terry Gillihan saddles the aforementioned first-time starter, Illumination Road, a son of Cahill Road-Persiflage who capped a brilliant series of drills Thursday with a three-furlong bullet in :35 4/5. Gillihan won the 1998 Emerald Express with Crosswater, a son of Ogygian who, unlike Illumination Raod, already had scored a fast maiden win and was 11-to-10 when he scored in gate-to-wire fashion in 1998.

As for Illumination Road, Gillihan said the Rom Maus-owned gelding isn’t hard to spot on the racetrack.

“He’s a big 2-year-old and he’s been training along really good,” Gillihan said. “I don’t know how fast he’s going to be, but he’s big.

“He does everything pretty easy, but you never really know. He’s a first-time starter and everybody else has run at least once, so that always makes a difference.”

Additional notes:

Hanrahan attempts to become the fourth Hastings Racecourse shipper to win an Emerald Downs stakes this season. A Washington-bred Matty G gelding trained by Greg Tracy, Hanrahan comes off a 3½-length victory in $20,000 maiden claimer at 3¼ furlongs. Hoist (Governor’s Handicap), Gosailgo (Boeing Handicap) and Herbie D (Mt. Rainier Handicap) already have shipped down from Vancouver for stakes wins.

The Emerald Express is the ninth race, at approximately 6:00 p.m. local time.

The second edition of Pressbox Podcast*featuring interviews, guest handicappers and Robert Geller’s live call of the race*begins 30 minutes before post time. The link is available at the Emerald Downs Twitter feed (@emeralddowns) and the track’s Facebook page. Jacob Pollowitz hosts the 45-minute show live from the media office.

Food Truck Festival on Sunday!

Bring a big appetite to the races this Sunday and gorge yourself at the second annual Food Truck Day at Emerald Downs. Several of the Puget Sound region’s favorite food trucks will wheel into the parking lot, set up shop, and serve fan favorites including My Chef Lyn, 314 Pie, Evolution, Ben & Jerry’s, Gobble ToGo, Nomad, Za’aTar & Taco Gol.

The Food Trucks will serve from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.