09/27/2005 11:00PM

Chess game for Cup Day

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AUBURN, Wash. - There will be more than the usual suspense on Friday morning when entries are drawn for Sunday's third Washington Cup Day program.

Of the 66 horses nominated for the six stakes to be contested, nine were nominated for two races. One - The Great Face - was nominated for three of the stakes. The Great Face, a talented and versatile 3-year-old trained by Tom Wenzel, was named to the $40,000 Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile, the $40,000 Chinook Pass Sprint for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs, and the $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles.

Like most of the trainers who cross-nominated horses, Wenzel is keeping his options open regarding which race his horse will enter. Speed is The Great Face's primary weapon, so the trainer will be trying to determine which of the three races will come up lightest in terms of pace.

Trainer Jim Penney and his assistant, Kay Cooper, are in very much the same situation with Sabertooth, a former Longacres Mile winner who set a world record when he ran 6 1/2 furlongs here in May. Sabertooth's connections had been pointing him to the Chinook Pass Sprint, but they are now tempted by the Classic.

"It looks like the Classic is coming up a little short on speed, and there is no question that Sabertooth is best when he can have the lead to himself," said Cooper. "We'll have to give that race a long look, especially if there is a lot of other speed in the Sprint."

Cooper said the barn will send out at least four other runners on Washington Cup Day. Diamond View is set to run in the Sprint, Arco Iris will go in the $50,000 Belle Roberts for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, Confidential Call will run in the $40,000 Trooper Seven, and Schoolin You is scheduled for the $40,000 Captain Condo for 2-year-olds at six furlongs.

Starbird Road iffy; No Giveaway out

Adding to the suspense is the status of Starbird Road, who figures to be among the favorites in the Sprint. Starbird Road, a 4-year-old son of Count the Time from the barn of trainer Sharon Ross, is coming off back-to-back six furlong wins in 1:08.40 and 1:08.20, but he suffered a setback last week.

"He was coming off the track last Wednesday morning, and a loose horse ran into him," said Ross. "It was a pretty good collision, and it messed up his hind end. He jogged okay on Monday and he galloped on Tuesday, but he is still a little sore. We'll just have to see how he comes along. We won't run him unless he is right, and it will probably be a game-day decision."

Unfortunately, the suspense is over regarding the Longacres Mile winner, No Giveaway, who races for owner Herman Sarkowsky. Trainer Grant Forster had been battling an abscess in No Giveaway's front foot in an attempt to get him ready for the Classic, but he ran out of time.

"He's out," said Forster. "Mr. Sarkowsky said not to run him unless he was 100 percent, and we couldn't honestly say he was 100 percent. We'll give him a little more time, then we might take him down to Santa Anita."

Forster will not be without an entry in the Classic. He will run Skyrider, a lightly raced 4-year-old who has not raced since July 2, when he defeated $25,000 company at a mile.

"I'm trying to do my Charlie Whittingham impersonation and get him ready off works," said the trainer. "We had big hopes for him this year, but he got sidelined by a couple of illnesses."

Buying trip to Kentucky

Several local trainers were in Kentucky last week, restocking their shelves at Keeneland's mammoth September yearling sale.

Trainer Howard Belvoir said he bought nine yearlings, topped by a Broken Vow colt for $40,000. Tim McCanna said he bought 16 with price tags ranging from $25,000 to $2,500, and Frank Lucarelli said he bought 10 with a high price of $17,000.

At the high end, trainer Junior Coffey bought two yearlings for a total of $100,000, including a Lemon Drop Kid colt for $55,000, and Dick Wright bought six, topped by a Devil His Due colt who sold for $90,000.

Trainers Terry Gillihan and Roy Lumm, owners Mike Feuerborn and Ron Crockett, and bloodstock agent Dana Halvorson were also active.

"Between the guys here and the guys at Hastings, we probably brought 80 or 90 head back to the Northwest," Belvoir estimated.

O'Neill buys fillies promising fillies

Meanwhile, Southern California trainer Doug O'Neill has been doing some of his shopping on the local backstretch. O'Neill has recently purchased three talented 2-year-old fillies here for California clients. First was Nifty Zipper, who ran a very good second to allowance rivals at Fairplex on Monday after winning her first two races. More recently, O'Neill purchased maiden special weight winner Evening Escort from the barn of Frank Lucarelli, and Horse B With You, who won her debut on the $30,000 level, from the barn of Tim McCanna.