07/17/2006 11:00PM

Castillonis drops after stakes effort

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AUBURN, Wash. - Five older runners, each eligible to be claimed for $20,000, will do battle over 1 1/16 miles in Thursday's best race at Emerald Downs.

Castillonis looms the one to beat because of his sharp form. An 8-year-old trained by Robbie Baze, Castillonis missed by a head to Skyrider in a one-mile race at the $20,000 level here June 23. He jumped up to contest the $40,000 Independence Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 3, and though he finished last of seven, Castillonis was beaten only four lengths by the victorious Roscoe Pito, a winner of nearly $600,000, and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 75, easily the best last-race figure in Thursday's field. Ben Russell will take over the mount from Kate Repp, who suffered an ankle injury in a spill Saturday.

Bartus Christian poses a big threat on the lead and appears to be the speed of Thursday's field. Though he has had a hard time lasting a mile in his recent outings, Bartus Christian posted a 4 1/4-length win in a $25,000 claiming race at 1 1/16 miles last season. He has the rail post to complement his early foot and will be ridden by Gallyn Mitchell.

Also dangerous is Con Say One, who outfinished both Castillonis and Bartus Christian when he finished second in a 1 1/16-mile race on June 1. Con Say One has finished off the board in two subsequent efforts against starter competition. He will be reunited with rider Debbie Hoonan, who rode him to four wins here last season.