05/01/2007 11:00PM

Back from injury, Mawing off and running

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AUBURN, Wash. - Rider Leslie Mawing caught a bad break when he was injured at Turf Paradise on March 12. A deep contusion on his left thigh cut short a successful season in Phoenix, causing Mawing to be sidelined for more than a month.

Some clouds have a silver lining, however, and from his current vantage point Mawing feels his forced vacation was probably for the good.

"It gave me time to recuperate my body and refresh my mind," he said. "I had been going steady for a long time, and I didn't realize how much I needed that break. I came into this meet fresh and eager to ride."

Partly as a result of that, Mawing got off to a blazing start at the Emerald Downs meeting. Through Sunday's sixth day of racing, Mawing had ridden 7 winners from 26 mounts. The win total put him second in the jockey standings behind Kevin Radke with 8 wins, and his 27 percent win rate was the best in the colony.

"I'm really pleased with the way everything has fallen into place," said Mawing. "I got here two weeks before the meeting began and got on a lot of horses in the morning, and my new agent, John Moresco, has worked really hard for me. It's paying off."

Mawing, who finished 13th in the rider standings with 32 wins at last year's Emerald meeting, is hopeful that he can parlay his hot start into season-long success.

"It's a strong riding colony here, but it always helps when you get off to a good start at the meeting," he said. "I feel really good, both physically and mentally, so I'll just keep working hard and see what happens."

Mawing, who was born in South Africa, began his career at Boise in 1994. He rode out his apprenticeship in California, and has since spent his winters at Turf Paradise and his summers at Emerald. His best local finish came in 2005, when he ranked seventh in the standings with 57 wins. His brother Anthony Mawing, who has also ridden at Emerald, is riding at Charles Town in West Virginia.

Virus keeping field size down

Entries were decidedly light through the second week of the meeting, with only eight races being carded on each of the three days of racing and only 49 horses running Sunday.

The chief culprit, it seems, is a virus that has swept the local barn area. Springtime viruses are often inevitable when a new meeting brings together young horses who don't have immunities for each other's bugs. This year's virus seems particularly virulent, however.

"Six of my eight horses have had it," said trainer Charles Barth, who is also a veterinarian. "What is different about this virus is that even the older horses are getting it, including some who have been vaccinated. It is also hanging on longer than usual, and that is what is affecting the entries.

"Some years they just get the sniffles for a couple of days and you can put them right back into training, but this year it is hanging on long enough for them to lose some condition. You need to get them fit again before you can run them."

Field size should improve before the virus runs its course. The track will get an immediate influx of horses from Sunland Park, which closed last Sunday; Portland Meadows, which closes this Saturday; and Turf Paradise, which closes this Sunday.

Trainer Bill Tollett, who already has more than half of his horses on the grounds, is shipping the remainder of his stable from Sunland Park this week. Trainers Joe Toye and Mike Chambers will arrive from Turf Paradise with full contingents of horses by the weekend, and several trainers, including Eulia Bischoff, Nick Lowe, Corky Caron, and Ben Root, will soon complete the transfer of their stock from Portland Meadows to Emerald Downs. Other Portland Meadows trainers, such as Jonathan Nance and Jim Fergason, plan to continue training in Portland and will ship to Emerald to run.

Diligent Prospect out of Seattle Cap

David Tollett, assistant to his father, trainer Bill Tollett, reported that Diligent Prospect will skip this Sunday's running of the six-furlong Seattle Handicap. Diligent Prospect was favored in the opening-night allowance feature that saw The Great Face equal the North American dirt record for 5 1/2 furlongs, but he checked in fifth after a rough trip and emerged a bit the worse for wear.

"He tore a shoe off and cut his leg," David Tollett said. "It's nothing very serious, but we decided to skip this race to make sure he has plenty of time to heal up. He'll be back for the next one."

The second stakes for handicap runners is the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap on May 28. Tollett said Spanish Highway and Keegan, who will arrive from Sunland Park this week, may also run in the $45,000 FSN.

Memorial celebration for Potter

A celebration of the life of Chuck Potter will be held in the Emerald Room at Emerald Downs at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Potter, a former jockey agent and longtime Thoroughbred owner, had served as Emerald's simulcast coordinator since the track opened in 1995. He died of heart failure on Jan. 11 at age 52.