09/17/2007 11:00PM

'Bernie' looks like one to beat

EmailAUBURN, Wash. - Bernie White Shoes appears poised to notch his first win as an older horse in Thursday's Emerald Downs feature, a one-mile race that has drawn a field of eight $15,000 claimers.

The 4-year-old Bernie White Shoes won a maiden race and a first-level allowance last year at Belmont Park. Off that good form, he was claimed for $40,000 out of his second start this year at Keeneland. Trainer Grant Forster had him gelded and turned him out before bringing him back here on June 30, and he has gradually rounded back into form through four starts locally.

In his most recent outing on Aug. 26, Bernie White Shoes was dropped to the $17,500 level while being stretched out to a mile and just failed to last while being clocked in a rapid 1:35.20.

Bernie White Shoes figures to get stiff pace competition from Pointe Birds, a confirmed front-runner who should be coming up to a top try in his second start since March. Pointe Birds, a 7-year-old trained by Neil Knapp, tired after showing the way through six furlongs of a mile race for $15,000 claimers in his Sept. 3 comebacker, but figures to be much fitter in the second start of his form cycle.

Military Deputy could pose a late threat to the two front-runners after saving ground from the rail post. Military Deputy posted wins in the 1 1/4-mile and 1 1/2-mile legs of the track's marathon series.