07/19/2006 11:00PM

Belvoir's dynasty not done yet


AUBURN, Wash. - If trainer Howard Belvoir doesn't own the $45,000 Emerald Express Stakes for 2-year-olds at Emerald Downs, which will be run for the 11th time on Saturday, he must have a long-term lease on it.

Belvoir won the six-furlong stakes with Sundance Circle in 2003, and the 2004 edition with Seattles Best Joe. Last year, he not only won the race with Tusko T, he completed the exacta with Courting Seattle.

If Belvoir is to stretch his win streak in the Emerald Express to four, he will have Immigration to thank. Immigration, a son of Delineator, won his 5 1/2-furlong debut by three-quarters of a length over Pirates Deputy in a maiden special weight race on June 25. His time was a creditable 1:04.60, but that clocking didn't tell the whole story.

"The thing that impressed me about his effort was that it came after he acted up in the gate," said Belvoir. "He was crouching in the gate and they tried to tail him, and he just threw a fit. Ninety percent of them won't run a jump after they act up like that, so the fact that he came out and won makes me think he might be pretty special."

Belvoir said Immigration has been to the gate for schooling many times since he raced, and he worked five furlongs from the gate in a bullet 59 seconds last Friday.

"I don't think he'll have any more problems in the gate," Belvoir said. "He is really a pretty sensible colt, especially for a Delineator, and he has been just fine in the morning."

Belvoir said a better experience in the gate isn't the only thing that could move Immigration up on Saturday.

"I really don't feel he was very fit for his first race," he said. "He only had one five-furlong work in him, and he got a little tired down the lane. He has worked five furlongs twice since he raced, and I think he is much fitter now. I feel he has a lot of room for improvement."

Pirates Deputy will be flying late

Immigration will probably need to improve if he is to beat Pirates Deputy again. Pirates Deputy, a son of Bertrando from the barn of trainer Aubrey Villyard, broke slowly and fell more than nine lengths behind in the June 25 race, but closed like a slamming door to just miss.

"He closed more than six lengths in the last furlong, so you know he was really flying," said Villyard. "The extra sixteenth on Saturday should help him a lot. He really doesn't have any speed, so he'll be a long way back even if he breaks better, but once he gets his long legs moving he can really make up the ground."

Villyard purchased Pirates Deputy for just $6,500 at last October's Barretts sale, but the trainer said he wasn't tempted to try to steal a race by entering him for a claiming tag in his debut.

"I probably could have gotten away with it, but it just wasn't worth the risk," said Villyard. "For one thing, he had trained so well that I didn't want to take a chance on losing him. For another, he is owned by my wife, Sue, and my gallop girl, Brennan Shapiro. Those two women have fallen in love with him, and they never would have forgiven me if he had gotten claimed."

Villyard will also saddle Wild Cycle for the Emerald Express. Wild Cycle, a son of Free at Last who races for owner Frank Gaunt, won his debut in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race on July 8, when he led throughout to edge Liberty for Al by a head in 1:05.

"I was surprised by Wild Cycle, because he hadn't shown all that much in his training," Villyard admitted. "He is the kind of horse who does just enough to get by, though, and that's not all bad. He might have a little more to give if push comes to shove. He might just surprise me again."

Two talented horses sidelined

One who will be missing from Saturday's stakes is El Palqui, a 7 3/4-length winner over maiden special weight rivals in his May 29 debut. Trainer Bud Klokstad reported that El Palqui, a son of Slewdledo who races for owner Art McFadden, broke a knee in that race.

"He has already been operated on, and he is back at my farm," said Klokstad. "We'll try him again next year."

Another who will be sidelined for the remainder of the meeting is Livinonlovanadime, who took over leadership of the 3-year-old division with a sharp win in the one-mile Tacoma Handicap on July 2. Kay Cooper, assistant to trainer Jim Penney, said Livinonlovanadime suffered an injury to his shin.

"It is the same thing that cut his 2-year-old campaign short," said Cooper. "It is a shame because he was just getting good, but there was no way we could go on with him."

Livinonlovanadime, a son of Devil's Bag who races for the partnership of Feuerborn and Maryanski, has won three straight races since finishing fifth in his 2-year-old debut.