And down the back stretch they come!
The Tri-Cities horse racing season wraps up at Sun Downs this weekend, but as usual will go out with a bang with three quarter horse stakes races and the Pot O’ Gold Futurity on tap.
Along with the heavy purse action, eight races are scheduled for Saturday, and a whopping 11 races are slated to go off in Sunday’s season finale. The track will also simulcast the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, scheduled for around 3:40 p.m. between Sun Downs’ fifth and sixth races, and will offer wagering for “The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports.”
Post time is 1 p.m. for Saturday and Sunday. Here’s a preview of the weekend’s richest races.
DICK MONAHAN AQHA CHALLENGE (RACE 6, $24,087 PURSE): After winning the 350-yard stakes race’s third trial — held April 22 — Jesses Claim Ta Fame will be the 5:2 morning-line favorite coming out of the No. 3 post with a top qualifying time of 18.299 seconds.
The trial win was the first in 11 career starts for Jesses Claim to Fame, and the 3-year old had to out-duel the second (Mr Fast Dash, 3:1 morning line) and third (Cartels Jubalee, 7:2) fastest qualifiers to do it.
AQEQUAN DERBY CHALLENGE (RACE 8, $28,890): The richest race of the weekend figures to be one of the closest, at least on paper.
The No. 7 horse, Long Lost Buddy (5:2 morning line), won the second 400-yard trial by a nose over No. 9 Genuine Version (3:1) to post the fastest qualifying time of 20.403 (compared to 20.409). In the other trial, No. 4 Cm Woody Blue (6:1), No. 2 Stellur (8:1), No. 1 Flyin Rocks (10:1) and No. 10 Separate Flame (12:1) all finished within .075 seconds of each other. Cm Woody Blue won the race in 20.403.
Genuine Version posted four wins last season, including a victory in the 350-yard Utah Bred Futurity final. He also won trial races at two other futurity stakes, then posted fifth- and ninth-place finishes in the finals.
POT O’ GOLD FUTURITY (RACE 9, $28,318): No. 3 Recking Ball (2:1) posted a 15.749 in the 300-yard race’s first trial to beat No. 4 Kool Odds (5:2) by a three-quarters of a length.
The other trials were way off that pace, with Trial 2 winner, No. 10 Sweet Dream Demon (3:1), winning in 16.055, which was the next fastest time.
With all that considered, early-season futurity races are awfully difficult to handicap because most, if not all, of the horses in the field ran their first career race in the April 23 trials. Wager with caution.
SUN DOWNS/AQHA MERIAL DISTAFF CHALLENGE (RACE 11, $25,020): No. 2 Klassic Secret Br (2:1) won its trial going away from the next fastest qualifier, Tic Tac Attack (5:2), posting a 20.393 in the 400-yard sprint.
No. 8 Sorelli (3:1) won the other trial in 20.618, a nose in front of No. 10 Gone Fast (7:2). The 5-year-old Sorelli took second in last year’s Distaff Challenge and won the Emerald Downs Championship Challenge in August.
With a morning-line of 15:1, No. 1 Betrothen could be the weekend’s best buy. He stumbled to a slow start and eventual fourth-place finish, in 20.865, in the trial. Last year, the 6-year-old had the Distaff Challenge won on the track, posting an impressive 20.400, but was DQ’d to third because of a bump out of the gates.