04/21/2006 12:00AM

'Case Queen' looks tough back sprinting


AUBURN, Wash. - A field of 11 3-year-old fillies vie at six furlongs in Sunday's $40,000 U. S. Bank Stakes, the first stakes at Emerald's 10-year anniversary meeting.

Favoritism will be up for grabs, but one to consider is The Case Queen. Trained by Tom Wenzel for Ron Crockett Inc., The Case Queen won both of her sprint starts last year in impressive fashion. After graduating by 6 1/4 lengths in maiden special weight company in her July 16 debut at 5 1/2 furlongs, The Case Queen came back to defeat allowance rivals by nearly nine lengths at 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 13.

was stretched out to a mile for her final start as a 2-year-old in the $84,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes, and ran evenly to finish fourth behind Chestnut Lady. Wenzel feels the added distance might have taken the punch out of her finishing response.

"She'll get another chance to go a mile, but my hunch is that she is going to be better as a sprinter," Wenzel said. "Considering her breeding, her build, and her size, I'm guessing her maximum distance will be a mile and her best distance will be something less than that."

The six furlongs of U. S. Bank Stakes should hit The Case Queen between the eyes, and Wenzel said she has trained well for her 2006 debut.

"She was working slow under the exercise riders earlier this spring, but as soon as her regular rider [Juan Gutierrez] showed up and we gave her some company to work with, she really perked up," Wenzel said. "She is definitely pretty fit, and I'm expecting her to give a good account of herself."

The Case Queen again will face , who was named top 2-year-old filly at last year's meeting on the strength of her Shinpoch win. Chestnut Lady, trained by Jim Penney for Mike and Amy Feuerborn, has not raced since going unplaced in last year's Gottstein Futurity, but she has trained extremely well in recent weeks.

The other stakes winner in Sunday's field is , who won the $125,000 CTBA Stakes for California-breds last summer at Del Mar. Devons Smokin, who will be saddled by trainer Manuel Calvario, is winless in three starts in stakes company this year, but she ran a creditable third in the six-furlong Tiburon Handicap at Golden Gate Fields in February.