06/17/2003 12:00AM

Claimers go after big purse


AUBURN, Wash. - Primadonna Poppy heads a field of six older fillies and mares in Thursday's featured seventh race at Emerald Downs, a $3,200 starter allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs.

Thursday's feature is part of the Stanislaw Ashbaugh Series, which spotlights the lower-level claiming horses who help to fill the bulk of the programs at most tracks, and it will offer an enhanced purse of $7,000.

Trained by Scott Freeman, Primadonna Poppy became eligible for the series in her last start on June 5, when she dropped from $6,250 to the $3,200 claiming level and went wire to wire in 1:04.60 for 5 1/2 furlongs. It was the first victory for Primadonna Poppy since returning from a 13-month vacation in February at Portland Meadows. The win should go a long way toward restoring the confidence of Primadonna Poppy, a 5-year-old mare by Slewdledo who was a tough allowance competitor as a 3-year-old. She won't need a great deal of improvement to score again on Thursday.

Among Primadonna Poppy's rivals are Ragtime Ruthie and Who Does, the one-two finishers in a $3,200 claiming race at 6 1/2 furlongs on May 16. Ragtime Ruthie led throughout to defeat Who Does by five lengths that day, but has since been beaten twice when denied the lead at the $4,000 level. Ragtime Ruthie usually needs to get clear in order to win, so a key question for handicappers is whether she will be able to outrun Primadonna Poppy and perhaps I'am a Kamper for the early lead.

Who Does, who has stalking ability, has not run since finishing second to Ragtime Ruthie, but she posted a sharp three-furlong drill in 36.80 on June 7 and seems primed to contend.