05/07/2009 12:00AM

Burgundy Road beginning '09

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AUBURN, Wash. - On a rare weekend without a stakes race at Emerald Downs, some aspiring stakes horses will tangle Saturday in the feature race, a first-level allowance for 3-year-olds at six furlongs. The nine-race card begins at 2 p.m., and the feature will go as the fifth race.

Four of the five horses entered in the feature competed in Emerald Downs stakes races during their 2-year-old year. Perhaps the most promising was Burgundy Road, who set a pressured pace in the $45,000 Strong Ruler Stakes last August before faltering in the final yards going 6 1/2 furlongs. Turned out after that race, Burgundy Road, a son of Cahill Road, begins 2009 with a new trainer and a new rider. Blaine Wright now trains him for owner David Martin. Jockey Seth Martinez, who returned to the Northwest this week after finishing the season at Turf Paradise, is set to ride.

While Burgundy Road might need a race after a long layoff, he is bred to be a good one. Purchased for $20,000 out of the 2007 Washington summer sale, he is a half-brother to Margo's Gift, a four-time stakes winner at Emerald Downs. Margo's Gift, 4, is one of the top sprinters on the grounds, and Burgundy Road could follow suit.

His chief adversaries Saturday could be Strawberry Topper and Proud Nicholas, both pace factors in their season debut, a first-level allowance at 5 1/2 furlongs on April 18.

Trained by Dan Markle, Strawberry Topper finished third that day after dueling from the inside. He has worked well in the interim and switches from apprentice Matt Hagerty to leading rider Ricky Frazier. Proud Nicholas tracked Strawberry Topper from the outside before lugging in down the lane. He, too, gets a rider switch, from Freddy Fong Jr. to newcomer Saul Arias, who won with 19 percent of his mounts in the meeting's first nine days. Doris Harwood trains Proud Nicholas.

Eighty Eight and Toss'm Again round out the field. Eighty Eight won twice in 2008 and was a late-running third in the $50,000 Captain Condo Stakes in September. Gallyn Mitchell will ride Eighty Eight for red-hot trainer Vann Belvoir, who has hit the board with 16 of his 22 starters at the meeting. Toss'm Again will be the longest price in the feature. He was 40-1 while beating just one horse in his 2009 debut. Trained by Roy Lumm, Toss'm Again will be ridden by Joe Crispin.