08/04/2009 12:00AM

Alpakapaluza better suited to sprinting


AUBURN, Wash. - An eclectic group of nine signed on for the feature race Thursday at Emerald Downs, a $12,500 claimer for older horses who have never won three times. The leading contenders include a speedy shipper from the Montana bushes, a 3-year-old nonwinner-of-two who lost his last start by 18 lengths, and a former Santa Anita hotshot who hasn't raced in 2 1/2 years.

Alpakapaluza will vie for the role of favorite in the six-furlong feature. Winless in six starts in 2009, the Jim Penney-trained 3-year-old faded to finish last, beaten by 18 lengths, going one mile in his most recent outing. He stands to move forward with the return to a sprint distance, and would be difficult to overhaul if he could approximate his effort in the six-furlong Auburn Stakes on April 26, when he pressed the pace to finish third after a slow start. Gallyn Mitchell, who rode Alpakapaluza in the Auburn, will be back aboard Thursday.

Leroi Victor, who finished second in an allowance race at Great Falls in his 2009 debut last month, could make his presence felt Thursday in his first start for trainer Chris Stenslie. One of five 3-year-olds in the race, Leroi Victor signaled his readiness with a 46.20-second four-furlong move last Monday, the fastest of 51 works at the distance. Debbie Hoonan-Trujillo is scheduled to ride.

Jake La Gold, idle since February 2007, figures to attract some wagering support. From the barn of Emerald's leading trainer, Tim McCanna, the 5-year-old has worked forwardly for his return, zipping four furlongs in 46.80 seconds Saturday following a bullet five-furlong gate work two weeks ago. Jake La Gold would be making just his third lifetime start; he finished second in a maiden allowance sprint as the 5-2 favorite in his debut at Santa Anita, and won his second start easily while recording a Beyer Speed Figure of 92. Seth Martinez will ride.

Other contenders include Kid Huey, a front-running maiden winner at Emerald last July who hasn't raced since; Run Royal Reign, who dominated a $12,500 claimer at Golden Gate last December before falling on hard times; and Jabien's Magic, who could benefit from a drop in class.