08/04/2003 11:00PM

Closers edge in small-field speedfest

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AUBURN, Wash. - Though only five horses entered Thursday's 5 1/2-furlong feature for 3-year-olds at Emerald Downs, there will be no shortage of speed.

Of the five, all of whom are eligible to be claimed for $16,000 to $14,000, three are confirmed front-runners. Skookum Pass has three gate-to-wire wins at the meet, while Slew the Enemy and Jumpingjupiter have each won twice from on or close to the early pace.

The surfeit of speed could give a tactical advantage to Stately Jack Flash and Dawg Fan, both of whom prefer to come from slightly off the pace.

Stately Jack Flash, a Stately Wager colt from the barn of trainer Ben Root, won the six-furlong William Wineberg Stakes last winter at Portland Meadows and fell just shy of catching the speedy I Won't Apollogize in the Flying Lark Stakes at six furlongs in February.

He is coming off a four-race campaign at Hastings Park that includes a second to $35,000 runners and a recent third against $15,000 company. All four of those races were at 6 1/2 furlongs, which is probably beyond Stately Jack Flash's best distance. The cutback to 5 1/2 furlongs on Thursday is to his advantage, and he should be finishing strongly under Juan Gutierrez at 118 pounds.

Dawg Fan came from just off the pace in an authoritative 3 3/4-length maiden win June 19, running six furlongs in 1:10.80.