04/29/2008 11:00PM

Clouds follow Shampoo - but that's not bad

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AUBURN, Wash. - Shampoo has become something of a drought-breaker, in at least two senses of that phrase.

First, it seems to rain every time Shampoo is scheduled to race.

"There are umbrellas in just about all of her win pictures," said trainer Doris Harwood. "No matter how sunny it is in the morning, I always bring my rain gear over to the front side when she runs."

Harwood's rain gear came in handy last Sunday, as it began to shower shortly before Shampoo was scheduled to contest a 5 1/2-furlong prep race for the six-furlong Hastings Park Handicap on May 18. It wasn't enough to change the track rating from "fast," but it apparently activated Shampoo. She stalked pacesetters She's All Silk and Hit a Star through a half-mile in 44.80 seconds, moved to take command under Ricky Frazier at the top of the stretch, and drew out to a surprisingly easy two-length victory over a stellar field in 1:02.80.

It was the first win from 12 starters at the young meeting for Harwood, and that is the other sense in which Shampoo is a drought-breaker. Last year Harwood went winless for twice as long before the Jerre Paxton-owned Shampoo won the U. S. Bank Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on May 12. That score launched Harwood on a record-breaking season in which she won a dozen stakes, including four with Shampoo.

"She is the one who seems to get my barn kick-started," said Harwood. "She is such a nice filly, and she was perfect coming into this race. It was great to see her beat the older mares. As a 4-year-old, she is in a transitional year. You never know how they will fit in the new division, but she seems to fit just fine. She only improves with more distance, so I'm looking forward to another good campaign with her."

No buyer bit at Diligent Prospect

Trainer Charlie Essex took a calculated risk when he entered Diligent Prospect for a $40,000 tag in Saturday's feature, an optional claiming race for older horses at 5 1/2 furlongs. For one thing, the 6-year-old Diligent Prospect, owned by K J Star Stable, had raced just eight days earlier in an allowance prep for this Sunday's Seattle Handicap, finishing a troubled third. For another, he might have been claimed.

"I was concerned about both of those things," Essex said. "He seemed to come out of his race on opening night in good shape, though, and his blood work was fine. I didn't know if he would fire on the quick turnaround, but I decided to take a chance.

"I took a chance running him for $40,000, too, but that's a lot to pay for a horse when you are not sure he can win stakes. He won stakes in the past, but maybe the $40,000 level is where he belongs now."

The chances that Essex took paid off, as Diligent Prospect posted a convincing 1 1/4-length win in 1:02.80 and remained the property of Ron Whited's K J Star Stable.

"I'd like to give him four or five weeks off now, then take a look around and decide where to go," said Essex. "Maybe getting a win into him will build his heart back up and he can be a stakes horse again. That was our hope going into the race on Saturday. We felt he needed a win, and we took a chance and entered him for a tag."

The gamble paid off for Diligent Prospect's connections, but owner C.E. Richardson was quick to point out that the risks of dropping a horse in class to secure a confidence-building win are real.

"That's what we tried to do with a little filly I owned, and it didn't work out so well for us," said Richardson.

The owner was referring to Reba Is Tops. Richardson and trainer Tom Wenzel dropped Reba Is Tops in for a $17,500 tag early last season and she won like a good thing, but she was claimed. Reba Is Tops has since won 6 of 9 starts, including a pair of stakes at Bay Meadows, for trainer Bud Klokstad. She arrived back at Emerald Downs last week and is scheduled to challenge Shampoo in the May 18 Hastings Park Handicap.

Richardson no doubt wishes he still owned Reba Is Tops, whom he bred, but he is philosophical about losing her.

"Anybody who has been in this game for any length of time has lost a few horses they didn't want to lose," said Richardson. "You just have to hope that things even out in the end."

Two of Pabsts' mares in foal

Rick and Debbie Pabst, who operate Blue Ribbon Farm in Buckley, Wash., reported that two of their best mares have been declared in foal to promising young stallions. The Pabsts said Cascade Corona, who won both the King County and the Boeing handicaps here in 2004, is in foal to Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Macho Uno. Sudden Departure, who won last year's King County and ran second in the Boeing, is in foal to Tribal Rule, a son of Storm Cat.

Salt Grinder scores first time out

Salt Grinder, a venerable 9-year-old who is now trained by Sharon Ross, won his season debut against $25,000 claimers on Saturday with 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.80. It was the sixth time from eight campaigns that Salt Grinder has won his first start of the year. His only losses in his seasonal bow came in the 2003 and 2006 Seattle Handicap.