06/10/2003 12:00AM

Babies flash stakes potential

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AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs's program for 2-year-olds hit full stride last weekend with a pair of maiden special weight races, and both winners seem likely to be heard from when the division's stakes schedule is launched about a month from now.

Last Saturday, Sala de Oro, a second-time starter trained by Grant Forster, blitzed six other 2-year-old fillies by six lengths in 1:05.20 for 5 1/2 furlongs. Sala de Oro had run third to the Bud Klokstad-trained Aunt Tizzy in her prior outing, a maiden special weight race at 4 1/2 furlongs May 10.

"She broke from the rail post in her debut and she drew the outside today, and that can make a big difference for an inexperienced 2-year-old," said Forster. "This filly moved forward the way we hoped she would, and it looks like she has a nice future. She trained like a good filly all along, but horses can go either way after their first starts. She obviously went the right way."

Sala de Oro, a Kentucky-bred by Expelled out of Kildare, by Flying Paster, races for Dave Mowat's Ten Broeck Farm Inc. Mowat, a Camano Island resident who owns a farm in Kentucky, purchased Sala de Oro for $75,000 at last September's Keeneland sale.

"I usually don't buy yearlings, but she was a special case," said Mowat. "I had bought her half-sister Hall of Gold as a broodmare prospect a little earlier, and Hall of Gold was a terrific sprinter who won three stakes in a row in northern California. Unfortunately, she died before I could breed her, but when I saw her sister in the sale catalog, I just had to have her.

"I named her Sala de Oro, which is Hall of Gold in Spanish, in hopes that she would take after her sister."

Hall of Gold's 5 wins from 8 starts included one route win, but she was primarily a sprinter. That may not be the case for Sala de Oro, whose sire's credits include a win in Del Mar's Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap at nine furlongs on the grass. Expelled's full brother Exbourne won the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup at 1 1/2 miles en route to earnings of more than $900,000.

'Sundance' comes out running

Sunday's hero was Sundance Circle, a first-time starter for trainer Howard Belvoir, who caught the heavily favored Chet Minty in the upper stretch and drew out to a 2 1/2-length victory over Market Report in 1:04.40 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

"I was very pleased with the way he ran first time out," said Belvoir. "He is a spooky horse and he even bolted in one of his workouts, so we had to spend a lot of time teaching him. He hopped out of the gate today, but other than that he did everything right. We have always thought he had a lot of talent."

Sundance Circle, a grand-looking son of Katowice and Nightatmisskittys, by Al Mamoon, races for Mike Alhadeff's Once Stable. Alhadeff purchased the gelding for $52,000 at last summer's Washington Thoroughbred Breed-ers Association yearling sale.

"I thought he was the best-looking yearling in the sale, so I showed him to Mike and Mike said 'This is the one,' " Belvoir said. "I think it helped that Mike had owned another horse from the same family."

That was Serenity Road, a winner of two stakes at Longacres and more than $127,000 from 6 wins in 20 career starts. Serenity Road and Nightatmisskittys, who was unraced, are both out of the Ack Ack mare Skysweeper, who is also the dam of 14-time stakes winner Firesweeper.

Juvenile stakes later than usual

The stakes action for 2-year-olds will begin a month later than usual this season with the six-furlong Angie C Stakes for fillies on July 12 and the six-furlong Emerald Express for colts and geldings on July 19.

Last year, the five-furlong Pierce County Stakes for 2-year-old fillies was run on June 9 and the five-furlong Captain Condo Stakes for 2-year-old colts and geldings was run on June 15.

"We got caught in a budget crunch when we decided to create Washington Cup Day," explained director of racing Grant Holcomb. "We didn't have very much new stakes money for Washington Cup Day, so we had to use the money from existing stakes. One of the things we did was to move the first two stakes for 2-year-olds to Washington Cup Day, which is Sept. 21."

Holcomb hoped that moving the initial juvenile stakes back a month would result in more horses being ready to run in those stakes, but he feared that removing the incentive to have 2-year-olds ready early would result in fewer of the early juvenile races filling.

So far, that hasn't been the case. Through Sunday, 16 2-year-old races had been run at the meeting, while only 12 had been run through the same point in last year's meet.