06/06/2006 12:00AM

Coffey not pushing Raise the Bluff too hard


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Junior Coffey said Raise the Bluff emerged from his come-from-behind victory in Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi-Cola Handicap in good shape, but he was not ready to commit to running the 3-year-old back in the one-mile Tacoma Handicap July 2.

"It seems as though he runs best with plenty of time between his races, so I really don't know if he will be back for the next stakes or not," said Coffey. "I'll just keep watching him and see if he won't tell me when he is ready to run again."

Raise the Bluff, a son of Pine Bluff who races for Ron Crockett Inc., had plenty of time off before the Pepsi-Cola, because he missed the May 7 running of the six-furlong Auburn Handicap with a slightly elevated temperature, perhaps the result of a stomach virus. He had not run since scoring a hard-earned victory in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance race on opening day, April 21.

"It might have been a blessing that he missed the Auburn, because that allowance race took a lot out of him," said Coffey. "It was his first start of the year, and he was challenged on the lead all the way, then he had to dig back in to hold off My Friend Luis at the end. The race changed his demeanor. He backed off his feed, and he seemed to lose a little bit of his spark. He was just a very tired horse."

The effect of that front-running effort planted the seed of an idea in Coffey's mind, and the seed took root when the Pepsi-Cola came up top-heavy with speed horses.

"I just thought it might be a good time to experiment a little and take him off the pace," he said. "It wasn't just that there were three or four other front-runners in the race. I also didn't want to subject him to the demanding kind of race he ran on opening day. I didn't feel he could continue to run that kind of really demanding race every time out."

Coffey said he discussed the new strategy with Crockett and the owner's stable manager, Lance Williams, but that he didn't tell rider Nate Chaves until he spoke to him in the paddock before the Pepsi-Cola.

"The thing that remains vivid in my mind is the look on Nate's face when I told him what I wanted to do," said Coffey. "He didn't say anything, but he dropped his lower lip and rolled his eyes up to the sky, and I could tell what he was thinking. He was thinking that the horse had run well on the lead, and speed was holding pretty well on Sunday."

Whatever doubts Chaves might have had, he executed Coffey's plan to perfection. The rider reserved Raise the Bluff in seventh position early, moved him wide on the turn, and kept him going down the stretch to post a 1 3/4-length victory over a troubled Ragin Nonno in 1:16.

"Junior threw me a curve ball in the paddock, but everything went just like he hoped it would," said Chaves. "He was smarter than I was."

El Palqui wows 'em in maiden win

Only seven 2-year-old races have been run at the meeting, and the first stakes for the division is still more than a month off, but it is a good bet that El Palqui will be among the contestants. El Palqui, a Slewdledo colt who races for owner Art McFadden, raised eyebrows and dropped jaws on Sunday when he blitzed a field of maiden special weight runners by nearly eight lengths after five furlongs in 57.60 seconds. The clocking approached the 57.20 that Packy hung up in 2004, which is the fastest five-furlong time ever recorded at Emerald by a 2-year-old.

"The track has been so fast this year that I'm not sure what that time really means, but I did think he ran a ran an awfully nice race," said trainer Bud Klokstad.

El Palqui was one of six yearlings McFadden purchased at last summer's Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association sale, and two were by Slewdledo. That is no surprise, since McFadden has campaigned the stakes winners Bub, Corvallis Dee, and Ballou Slew, who are also by Slewdledo. The surprise is that the owner only had to go to $10,000 to buy El Palqui.

"I have no idea why he sold so cheaply, because I thought he was an exceptionally beautiful yearling," said Klokstad. "When I saw him walk into the ring, I thought he was my kind of horse. It is a wonder that Art and I weren't bidding against each other, him out in back and me in the seats. He might have cost a lot if we had done that."

Klokstad said El Palqui, whose name is pronounced "El Paul-Kay," is named for a town in Chile.

"Art's wife is from Chile, and he owns a grape farm down there, so he named all of his yearlings last year after places in Chile," said the trainer.

Flying Notes looking youthful

Klokstad also reported that the 2002 horse of the meeting, the 7-year-old Flying Notes, has trained well since running seventh in the FSN handicap on May 29, which was his first outing in nearly three years.

"He really ran about as well as I could have hoped, considering how long he had been away," he said. "He might need another race or two before he really shows his best stuff, but he is coming along. Mentally, he is great. He acts like a 3-year-old."