05/24/2007 12:00AM

Arsen Annie starts wide in claimer

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AUBURN, Wash. - An evenly matched field of 12 fillies and mares, each eligible to be claimed for $32,000, will test the skills of handicappers in the 6 1/2-furlong feature Saturday at Emerald Downs.

Complicating the task for bettors is the fact that Arsen Annie, who might be considered the logical favorite off her stellar debut here May 5, will have to break from the outside. Arsen Annie, a 7-year-old daughter of Kerosene who amassed earnings of more than $225,000 while racing in the Midwest, just missed catching Golden Pine and Hit a Star in her local bow, which came in an optional claiming affair at 5 1/2 furlongs. Golden Pine has since flattered that effort, coming back to run a creditable third in last Sunday's Hastings Park Handicap.

Arsen Annie will need to find a way to save ground, however, and her stalking style makes that a challenge. Trainer Bill Smith has named Leslie Mawing to ride.

Another who figures to draw attention is Melba Jewel, who will be shooting for her third straight win after defeating $40,000 company at 5 1/2 furlongs in her 2007 debut on April 28. Melba Jewel, however, benefited from being left alone on an extremely soft pace that day and she will need to go much faster if she intends to be on the lead again Saturday. Kate Repp will ride for trainer Frank Lucarelli.

The most likely pacesetter would appear to be the Bill Tollett-trained Oh Yes I Am, who posted three front-running wins at last year's meeting. The 5-year-old Oh Yes I Am has not raced since January, but she won her first start here last season.