Larry the SportsCat’s Emerald Round-Up!
(Story written prior to Wednesday’s races.)
(Auburn, WA) It’s time for our in-house Horse Racing expert Larry the SportsCat to re-cap the first 11 days of the 50-day 2021 race meet. Below he highlights milestones, interesting and fun facts through the first 11 days of racing.
The 2021 schedule officially opened on Wednesday, May 19 with an 8 race card and Madigan Squeeze as the 6-5 favorite roared to the front of the 5-furlong race with Alex Anaya aboard and made all the favorite bettors quite happy with an explosive 11+ length win for owners the Swag Stable and trainer David Martinez. Julien Couton would then win the next race for longtime NW owner/trainer/breeder Cliff Balcom aboard Frisco Frills at 4-5 and the first daily double of the season paid $7.30.
Couton was not done though and reeled off wins in the 4th aboard Playing Through at 5-2, the 5th race on Zatter at 8-5, the 6th race on Mister McLean at 2-2 completing an all Couton Pick 3 that returned $18.45 finishing with half the wins on opening day.
2020 Champion jockey Alex Cruz had a 25-day win streak from last year and would extend that streak by winning the final race of the day aboard Queen Breezy at 5-1. This after Cruz had finished 2nd in the first 5 races and finally got the win in the final race of the day.
On day 2, Thursday, May 20, Cruz began with another near miss in the 2nd race on Ms Lynn, a 6-1 outsider just missed losing by a neck. Although frustrating, the pay-off with Ms Lynn came to fruition this past Sunday when Cruz stunned a field of 10 in the Seattle Stakes winning going away at 17-1. But Cruz wouldn’t wait any longer to get his win on day 2 in race 3 with Float On at 5-2 to extend his streak to 27 days.
Day 2 also saw the first big pay-outs with Big Tony winning the 4th with Couton up at 13-1 returning $29 and finishing off a $591 50-cent pick 4. Other big pay-outs on this day included the next Pick 4 good that began with Big Tony returning $950 and the 50-cent Pick 5 good for $1,373.
Day 2 also some familiar faces back in the winners circle like Mike Man’s Gold with returning Emerald veteran Kevin Radke in the irons at 7-1 adding to his track record win total to 24. He would add another win on June 3rd to run his track record number of wins to 25.
The feature races on opening week saw the Rising Star VII stable’s Muncey pull away for a lenght+ win on opening night with Jennifer Whitaker in the saddle for trainer Howard Belvoir in an allowance race. Day 2’s feature, also an allowance saw the return of Daffodil Sweet with a solid 3-length win for trainer Chris Stenslie and owners the One Horse Will Do Corporation and Steve Shimizu with the track’s all-time winning jockey Juan Gutierrez aboard.
“Seconditis” hits Leading Jock and one of the top Barns
Running 2nd in horse racing is not the worst thing in the world, you get paid more than any other placing but 1st and generally 2nd place finishes are more often welcomed than frustrating. Now when you are the defending champion jockey where you won 72 races, 20 more than your nearest challenger or you are a trainer that started 70 last year and finished with 10 wins and 11 2nds and you begin the year through the first 6 days with 8 wins and 16 2nds, which is where jockey Alex Cruz was or 1 win and 8 2nds where trainer Candy Cryderman found herself is indeed frustrating.
Since the first half dozen race days both have found the cure for “Seconditis” with Cruz now the leading rider winning at a 27% clip with a 23-18-16 record from 86 mounts and is leading in earnings as well. Cryderman is now sitting with 5 wins and tied for 5th in the standings for wins. She has added a couple of more 2nds and her record is 5-10-3 from 25 starts (Winning at 20%) and is in 4th place in earnings.
We talked with both Cruz and Cryderman about their battle with that filthy “Seconditis” virus and how they kept focused to get out of that rut…
Alex Cruz on running 2nd so many times early in the meet
Candy Cryderman on breaking that 2nd place cycle
Having the returning Champion always makes the colony strong and Alex Cruz is as solid as they come and now has run his consecutive win streak to 36-days. He has had a couple of scares extending his streak twice in the last race of the day and once had to survive an inquiry to keep it alive. Cruz getting past his running 2nd issue is now the one to squarely beat especially with his heady ride last Sunday in the Seattle Stakes winning his first ever Stakes race at Emerald on 17-1 Ms Lynn for 84-year-old trainer Roy Lumm and owner Ron Bohlman who spends his days working as a security guard at Emerald Downs.
Julien Couton was able to be here on opening day this season, normally the track opens earlier and Couton is at Golden Gate but this year with the late start Couton is also off to a hot start leading the standings for more days than not so far only recently being passed by Cruz but also winning not one but both of the first two Stakes races of the year last Thursday taking the Hastings Stakes on Ima Happy Cat and then the Budweiser on local favorite Papa’s Golden Boy.
Other regular riders back include the all-time leading rider at Emerald Downs Juan Gutierrez who is in 3rd in the standings, Javier Matias is back along with Jennifer Whitaker, Alex Anaya and Jose Anaya. Kevin Radke, as mentioned above is back after retiring from riding in 2009 and then after doing some limited riding the past couple of years is back competitively and off to a fast start currently in 5th place.
Franklin Ceballos is back after last riding here in 2019. Ceballos got off to a great beginning in 2019 riding 27 winners and 3 Stakes wins with Baja Sur in the Auburn and Coca Cola Stakes and on Best of Me in the Washington State Legislators Stakes before getting injured and ending his season in July of 2019. After recovering he spent his time at Golden gate, Thistledown in Cincinnati and Turf Paradise in Phoenix before returning to ride this Spring here in Auburn. Ceballos is still looking for that consistency but is off to a solid start with 5 wins from 39 starts tied with Alex Anaya for 6th in wins.
Heriberto Martinez is back from last season arriving a week late and not having the first calls on some horses he struggled at first but is now picking up steam with 3 wins, picking up 2 of those
this past Sunday, he also has 6 places and 5 shows. One rider who finished in the top 5 last year and was here early looking to get off to a fast start, Cerapio Figueroa has already left the NW and headed back to Southern California where he rides at Los Alamitos and works horses. Figueroa got off to a fast start riding first for the powerful Jorge Rosales barn but Rosales doesn’t appear to have as many horses here this season and Figueroa had a tough time finding the winners circle getting there just once in 33 rides with 4 places and 4 3rds.
A late comer who can certainly make an impression is Ryan Barber who arrived a coup0le of weeks ago picked up his 2nd win in 14 rides in the final race on Sunday. He also has 3 second place finishes and look for Barber to get more chances and don’t be surprised to see him getting his picture taken for his fair share this season.
We’ve had our share of visiting riders already including the Orozco brothers, Kevin and Irving. Kevin had ridden here regularly for 3 seasons 2017-19 and has since re-located to the Bay area. Kevin rode on Sunday and won the Auburn Stakes aboard Top Executive from the Blaine Wright barn. Irving was here on Thursday for the 2 opening stakes and finished 4th aboard Coco Bee in the Hastings Stakes and 3rd on Take Charge Deputy in the Budweiser.
Also back is the very talented Joree Scriver who is based in Southern Oregon and split time between emerald and Grants Pass last year and rode 59 times in Auburn. She rode in Phoenix over the winter. Scriver was back on Thursday to ride for Candy Cryderman and owner John Parker and ran a terrific 2nd in the Hastings aboard Squan’s Kingdom as the longest shot on the board at 14-1 and then finished 3rd for Parker and Cryderman in the final race aboard Senor Fabuloso.
Longtime Veteran Connie Doll along with James Wooten and a pair of apprentices Bryson Butterfly who has finished 2nd and a 4th in 6 starts while Sean Gilpin rode a 4th place finish in his only start this past Sunday.
This is a solid riding colony and owners and trainers can have their own thoughts but really any of these riders are going to give them a shot at winning and that is a great place to be if you are Emerald Downs.
So far 8 horses have picked up 2 wins on the season led by the all-time record holder Mike Man’s Gold and speedster Papa’s Golden Boy. The other 2-time winners include Ms Lynn, Bella’s Back, Blowin Bayou, Float On, Mean Sharon and Rita Lorraine.
June 17, Hastings Stakes: Ima Happy Cat (9-2) Jockey: Julien Couton, Trainer: Dan Markle, Owner(s): Sue and Tim Spooner
June 17, Budweiser Stakes: Papa’s Golden Boy (7-5) Jockey: Julien Couton, Trainer: Vince Gibson, Owner(s): Gary, Deborah, Jeff and Peyton Lusk
June 20, Auburn Stakes: Top Executive (2-1) Jockey: Kevin Orozco, Trainer: Blaine Wright, Owner(s): John & Janene Maryanski & Riverbend Stable
June 20, Seattle Stakes: Ms Lynn (17-1) Jockey: Alex Cruz, Trainer: Roy Lumm, Owner(s): Ron Bohlman
5 Furlongs :57.47 All About Time May 26
5 ½ Furlongs 1:02.11 Papa’s Golden Boy June 2
6 Furlongs 1:07.71 Papa’s Golden Boy June 17
6 ½ Furlongs 1:15.87 Adens Dream June 10
1 Mile 1:36.59 Pistol Power June 17
There are a lot of the regular names that NW racing fans have come to know back here at their home track with some newcomers. Returning Champion trainer Frank Lucarelli is back but his barn not quite as full as it has been with a barn in Texas this season first at Sam Houston and now at Lone Star in Dallas. He maintains a string in Northern California as well and remains to be seen if he will run some on the fair circuit or ship more north to Auburn. Regardless he is off to a slow start for Lucarelli with only 2 wins in 36 starts just a 6% win percent. but he has had 6 places and 6 shows so it won’t be surprising to see Lucarelli get on a roll and no one should count him out of the trainers race this early.
Veteran trainer Joe Toye is off to a great start with 9 trips to the winners circle already along with a 2nd and 7 3rds from 25 starts, that’s a blazing 68% in the money. Blaine Wright as usual is heavy in the Stakes, allowance and upper claiming ranks and is off to a good start winning one of the 4 Stakes races, the Auburn on Sunday with Top Executive. He is 4-2-2 from 13 starts and leads all trainers in earnings with a little more than 80k.
Vince Gibson has a huge barn and got off to an ok start winning 3 of his first 18 starts but then went silent and was 3 for 32. But in this last week he got 3 wins and is now tied for 2nd with 6 in wins and is the #2 earnings leader with more than $77,000. Gibson also trained Papa’s Golden Boys who won the Budweiser Stakes in a season best time for 6-furloings of a blazing 1:07.71.
Joining Gibson tied for 2nd with 6 wins are the 2nd winningest trainer in Emerald Downs history Tim McCanna who has a 6-1-2 record in 11 starts and newcomer Ari Herbertson who is 6-2-1 from 14 starts.
There is a 3-way tie for 5th with Candy Cryderman, Howard Belvoir and Charles Essex each with 5. Kay Cooper Penney and Blaine Wright are tied for 8th with 4 wins, in 10th with 3 are Tom Wenzel and Jeff Metz and rounding out the trainers with more than 1 win are Lucarelli, Roy Lumm who also has a stakes win with Ms Lynn, in fact both of his wins are from Ms Lynn, Chris Stenslie, David Martinez, Robbie Baze, O A Martinez, Rigoberto Velazquez, Jose Raudales, Doris Harwood and Sam Dronen. The other Stakes winning trainer was Dan Markle with Ima Happy Cat.
There are several owners also off to a fast start starting with Greg and Chuck Conley or Terra Firma Farm who have combined for 6 wins. This group slugs away in the claiming ranks with their biggest purse coming from Red Noon Rising, oddly the ride that Alex Cruz won on and had to survive a stewards inquiry to keep his consecutive day win streak alive. this group also owns Mike Man’s Gold and have teamed up with trainer Joe Toye for a great beginning to 2021.
John Parker is next with 5 wins but leads in earnings with $62,000, much of that earned in the place pay-offs as he and his trainer Candy Cryderman have racked up 5 wins but 10 places including 2nd in last week’s Budweiser Stakes with Squan’s Kingdom. Rita Lorraine is his only 2 time winner so far in 2021 at emerald. Parker has horses also running at Delware and Parx on the east coast.
Fred & Cindy Desimone are tied with Scott Herbertson for 3rd with 3 wins each. Both are winning at incredible rates with the Desimine’s at 60%, 3 of 5 starts and Herbertson 75% 3 of 4 and 100% running 1st or 2nd.
There is a 10-way tie for 5th all with 2 wins and they are Howard Belvoir, Ron Bohlman who owns Stakes winner Ms Lynn, Joe Crawford and Joe Burke, Carol Dronen, Horseplayers Racing Club, Bill Jensen, K D Thoroughbreds, Gary Lusk, Deborah Lusk, Jeff and Peyton Lusk who own Stakes Winner Papa’s Golden Boy, Poseidon Partners II and Johnny Taboada.
The other Stakes winning owners include John and Janene Maryanski and the Riverbend Stable who own Top Executive and Tim and Sue Spooner with Ima Happy Cat.
Story of the Year! (so far)
Many to choose from but we narrowed it down to these:
*Julien Couton sweeps 1st two Stakes of the season in similar fashion with a blazing win in the Hastings aboard Ima Happy Cat and an even faster run from Papa’s Golden Boy in the Budweiser.
*Alex Cruz rebounds from a sluggish start to re-claim the top of the jockey leader board and maintains his consecutive day win streak now up to 36 days.
*Live fans return to the track with a huge crowd on Father’s Day
*Joe Toye’s fast start and his continued handling of Mike Man’s Gold
*84-year-old trainer Roy Lumm gets his 1st Stakes win since 2002 for owner who is an Emerald Downs Security guard and was Alex Cruz’s 1st stakes win at Emerald Downs. (Thinkin this is the leader in the clubhouse right now)
I know I have missed much and we will be doing a long column on the betting parlor this week as well. The best news is racing is back and so are the fans! Let’s say we all meet in Auburn for a cold one, tell tall tales of our greatest bets, wins or misses during the pandemic and take in the greatest sport in world at Emerald Downs! See ya next time!