The $65,000 Gottstein Futurity – the 27th and final stakes of the meet – tops Sunday’s 11-race closing day card at Emerald Downs.
A field of eight 2-year-olds race 1 1/16 miles in the season’s top event for 2-year-olds. Coal Creek Farm’s My Heart Awakens is the 5-2 morning line favorite, followed by Rising Star Stable’s Elliott Bay at 3-1, while a pair of fillies – George Todaro’s Diamonds R and Sabers Drawn Racing’s and Frank Lucarelli’s Frisky Bear – are 7/2 and 9/2 respectively.
Trump Itz, attempting to give trainer Blaine Wright his 11th stakes win of the meet, is next at 6-1, while Hey Sequoia is listed at 8-1. Winning Bluff at 15-1 and Aceinthehole at 20-1 are considered outsiders.
Interestingly, two of the top three choices are by the freshman sire Alternation. My Heart Awakens (Alternation-My Untamed Heart) is 2-for-2 and overcame trouble to capture an allowance race three weeks ago. And the filly Diamonds R (Alternation-Epitome of a Lady) comes off an 11½-length maiden victory in 1:10.54 for six furlongs, and picks up leading rider Rocco Bowen on Sunday.
Speaking of hot sires, Harbor the Gold has a record 55 stakes wins at Emerald Downs including eight more this season. Elliott Bay (Harbor the Gold-Melba Jewel) could up that total to 56 and nine with a victory Sunday. The bay gelding pulled off a $16.80 upset over Sippin Fire in the WTBOA Lads Stakes, and then finished runner-up as Sippin Fire prevailed in the Washington Cup Juvenile.
Howard Belvoir, trainer of Elliott Bay, has won 15 juvenile stakes at Emerald Downs but is still looking for his first victory in the Gottstein.
The Gottstein marks the first route test for all eight horses, and although 2-year-old races often favor speed horses, only 1-of-21 previous Gottstein winners at Emerald Downs led gate-to-wire.
The field for the 80th running of the Joe Gottstein Futurity: 1-Aceinthehole, Erick Lopez, 120 pounds, 20-1; 2-Trump Itz, Julien Couton, 120, 6-1; 3-Winning Bluff, Lorenzo Lopez, 120, 15-1; 4-My Heart Awakens, Javier Matias, 120, 5-2; 5-Hey Sequoia, Leonel Camacho-Flores, 120, 8-1; 6-Elliott Bay, Jennifer Whitaker, 120, 7-2; 7-Diamonds R (f), Rocco Bowen, 117, 7/2; 8-Frisky Bear (f), Kevin Orozco, 117, 9/2. (f) filly
The Gottstein Futurity goes as Race 9 at 5:41 p.m.
Trainer Frank Lucarelli, whose Blazinbeauty upset 2-5 favorite So Lucky last year. goes for his second straight Gottstein victory with a filly. Frisky Bear comes off a second to Bella Mia in Washington Cup Juvenile Filly.
Average field size in stakes races this season is 7.7 horses with a $10.40 average $2 win pay. Including the $55,000 Bank of America for Quarter Horses, the average win pay balloons to $14.40.
Betting favorites are 8-26 in stakes this season; favorites are 5-for-21 in the Gottstein at Emerald Downs.
Special 5 p.m. post on Saturday
Reminder that Saturday’s 9-race card features a special 5 p.m. post time while Sunday’s closing day 11-race program begins at the normal 2 p.m.
It’s also Fan Appreciation weekend, including $1 preferred parking, $1 programs, $1 sodas & coffee, $1 popcorn, $1 ice cream, $2.50 hot dogs, $3.75 domestic (16 ounces) draft beer, and $4.25 (16 ounces) micro/import draft beer.
2017 Durkan and Lindy winners announced
Trainer Joe Toye and jockey Javier Matias will both be honored with special awards after the fourth race Saturday night at Emerald Downs.
Toye is the 2017 recipient of the Martin Durkan Award, signifying leadership, cooperation, sportsmanship and excellence on and off the track. Toye is the 43rd winner of the prestigious award, chosen annually by racing secretary Bret Anderson and staff.
Matias is the 2017 Lindy Award winner for accomplishment and sportsmanship throughout the meeting. Named in honor of longtime clerk of scales Lindy Aliment, the Lindy Award is voted on by the Emerald Downs’ jockey colony.
Toye, who has trained at Emerald Downs since the track opened in 1996, is enjoying his finest season in 2017. He enters closing week No. 2 in the trainers’ standings with a career-high 34 wins and an excellent 30.9 win percentage. Toye, who spends winters at Turf Paradise, is just two wins shy of 1,000 for his career.
Matias enters closing week No. 7 in the standings with 35 wins.
Rocco Bowen enters the final two days with a 60-win lead over Kevin Orozco atop the riders’ standings, and Blaine Wright owns a 19-win lead on Joe Toye in the trainers’ standings. … With 122 wins in 70 days, Bowen is averaging 1.74 wins per day and has a 25.0 win percentage. Wright has 53 wins in 144 starts for a sparkling 36.8 win percentage. … Rockport Birdie bids for her seventh win of the meet in Sunday’s first race, a $5,000 claimer for older fillies and mares at 6½ furlongs. She enters the race tied with Wine At Nine for most wins at the meet with six apiece. … Portland Meadows’ opening day is October 2 and features the $10,000 Inaugural Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at 5½ furlongs. The $25,000 Portland Mile is Sunday, Jan. 28. … Irving Orozco, older brother of Kevin¸ captured the Golden Gate Fields fair meet title with 22 wins, and Tim McCanna and Jerry Hollendorfer tied for the training title with nine wins each. … The Alameda County Fair at Pleasanton began Thursday and runs through Oct. 1. … Emerald Downs’ track announcer Matt Dinerman is headed back to the Bay Area where he will be paddock analyst at the Golden Gate fall meet that begins Oct. 18. Jockeys headed to Golden Gate include Bowen, Kevin Orozco and Julien Couton.