06/29/2010 11:00PM

Clair Annette can show true colors

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AUBURN, Wash. - The real Clair Annette - the relentless, front-running one - should be on display Sunday in the $50,000 King County Handicap, trainer Connie Bouslaugh said this week.

Emerald Downs' first two-turn test of the meeting for fillies and mares, the one-mile King County attracted nine nominees, though the field was expected to shrink to perhaps a half-dozen when entries were taken Wednesday. Clair Annette figures to be one of the betting favorites, the likely second choice behind Gadget Queen, even though Clair Annette has yet to win in 2010.

She has started just twice, in the six-furlong Hastings Handicap at Emerald on May 2 and in the 6 1/2-furlong Senate Appointee Stakes at Hastings on June 12, and finished third both times. Her effort was exemplary, but she lacked her customary sharpness, relinquishing the lead by the quarter pole in each start. Turns out there were extenuating circumstances: She was ill for start No. 1, and rattled by unfamiliar surroundings on her trip to Vancouver.

"She had a little respiratory infection after the Hastings Handicap," Bouslaugh said. "I was going to aim her for the Washington State Legislators here on May 31, but I worked her about six days before the race, and she didn't gallop out with the energy I needed to see. That's why we went up to Hastings, because it gave me another two weeks."

"I really expected to win up there. I thought she was on her game. She ran all right, but she was kind of out of her element. They hand-walk all the horses in the stable area up there, and there was a lot of commotion. Plus, there was a roller coaster right behind her barn, going clang, clang, clang all the time. She's always so professional in the paddock, but she was rank and ornery, and she came back a little unhappy."

A lightly raced 7-year-old, Clair Annette finished first in six consecutive starts from May 2008 to May 2009, though one of those victories was overturned after she wiped out half the field at the starting gate. She led gate to wire each time, going an entire year with nothing in front of her but wide-open racetrack.

Her streak came to a crashing halt last June in the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators Stakes after she and High Resolve dueled through fractions of 21.20 and 43.20 seconds. After a three-month break, during which she underwent surgery to repair an entrapped epiglottis, Clair Annette returned in September to win the restricted Belle Roberts in her first career route attempt. Overall, she has won 8 of 18 starts and earned $118,883 for owner Nina Egbert.

Clair Annette worked four furlongs Monday in 46.60 seconds, setting her up for a big effort in the King County. She will have a new rider, as Kevin Krigger is replacing Seth Martinez, who left Emerald last week and is taking an indefinite leave from riding. Bouslaugh figures Clair Annette is ready to tackle eight furlongs and the best older females on the grounds.

"She worked real well Monday and had a strong gallop the day before," Bouslaugh said. "Kevin's been helping me get her back to being happy. He lets her take all the time she wants on the track. He was out there with her for 45 minutes the other day. I'm confident about the mile. Kevin galloped her about two miles the other day and she wasn't ready to quit."

Bouslaugh has only a handful of horses at Emerald and has yet to win a race at the meeting, but she has been knocking on the door. Her only 2-year-old, Buckle, finished second last Sunday in a $30,000 maiden claimer. Bouslaugh said Buckle, whose dam is a half-sister to Clair Annette, could make his second start in the restricted Strong Ruler Stakes on July 18.

Atta Boy Roy pointed for Remington Park Sprint Cup

Atta Boy Roy will be pointed toward the $200,000 Remington Park Sprint Cup on Aug. 21, trainer Valorie Lund said Tuesday from Churchill Downs, with the Breeders' Cup Sprint in early November at Churchill still her primary objective.

Lund said Atta Boy Roy, Emerald Downs' top sprinter in 2009, was resting comfortably after his runner-up finish behind Majesticperfection last Friday in the $125,000 Iowa Sprint Handicap at Prairie Meadows. Majesticperfection shattered the six-furlong track record, finishing 4 3/4 lengths clear of Atta Boy Roy in 1:07.24. The winner led every step as Atta Boy Roy was held in reserve by Calvin Borel, a strategic decision Lund would gladly revisit.

"The winner was in the 2 post and we were in the 8," Lund said of her prerace thinking. "I said I'm the speed of the speed, but why send my horse when I don't have to? We could sit out there and watch the race unfold and see what happens. Well, we tried to hook the winner, and Atta Boy Roy gave it all he had, but when they hit the turn, we couldn't drop in. The winner got the early gun, he got the drop on us, and by the time we got going, he had 3 1/2 lengths on us. After the race, I kicked myself. But I have a good, sound horse and we'll show up next time."

Majesticperfection earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 117, the second-fastest race in North America this year. Quality Road was assigned a 121 Beyer Figure after winning the 1 1/8-mile Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 6. Atta Boy's runner-up effort earned a 104.

Lund said the Remington Park Sprint Cup might allow Atta Boy Roy to duck some of the nation's top sprinters in advance of the Breeders' Cup.

"I'd like to hang out and shoot for the race at Remington, rather than the Vanderbilt at Saratoga, which is a Grade 1," she said. "I don't think I'm going to need the graded earnings for the Breeders' Cup, and I'm trying to keep my horse fresh and not run him any harder than I have to until November, because that's the one we want."