07/15/2003 12:00AM

Condotierri enters derby picture


AUBURN, Wash. - Sunday's Tacoma Handicap produced the fourth different winner from the four stakes for 3-year-olds at the Emerald Downs meeting, but it also produced a local favorite for the $125,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby at nine furlongs on Sept. 1.

Condotierri, who won last year's Gottstein Futurity at the same 1 1/16-mile distance of the Tacoma, returned to top form with a stretch run that carried him to the wire in 1:42.20 almost six lengths ahead of a game Knightsbridge Road. Knightsbridge Road had dueled for the early advantage with Leather N Lace and Mr. Elusive. Longshot Marbury got up for third in the field of 10.

It was the first win from four starts this year for Condotierri, a late-running son of Candy Stripes and Bermuda Petrel, by Silver Hawk, and he was coming off a pair of closing seconds in allowance races at a mile.

"There is a big difference between a mile and 1 1/16 miles, and it is another big jump to 1 1/8 miles," said trainer Craig Roberts, who owns Condotierri in partnership with Bob and Judy Pavalunas and Dr. Keith Redd.

"Not all horses can handle the added distance," said Roberts, "but this guy seemed to really relish it today, and I've got to think he'll like the derby distance even more."

Roberts purchased Condotierri as a yearling for $18,500 the 2001 WTBA winter sale, and the gelding has since earned $101,360 with three wins in nine starts.

"It just so happened that the guy who was standing Candy Stripes in Florida was a friend of mine, and he had been blowing his horn to me for a couple of years," said Roberts. "When I saw a son of Candy Stripes pop up in our sale, I made sure to go look at him, and the breeder, Duane Hopp, had him looking great. I just decided to take a chance on him."

Roberts, who trained Longacres Derby winners Rock Bath and Dusty County in the 1970's, said he is not sure if Condotierri will go straight into the Emerald Derby or prep in the 1 1/16-mile Seattle Slew Stakes on Aug. 10.

"He is not the kind of horse who needs to run every two or three weeks to stay fit, because he is a very good work horse," said the trainer. "I'll just have to play it by ear."

Wire-to-wire maiden winner

Melba Jewel became the meet's first 2-year-old stakes winner on Saturday, winning the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes with an impressive display of speed. Under Gary Baze, Melba Jewel opened a daylight advantage in the opening strides and was never threatened, scoring by almost three lengths in 1:11.20.

It was the first win for Melba Jewel, who had finished a close second to Angie C. favorite Aunt Tizzy in her May 10 debut.

"She showed us she could run in her first race, so we decided to give her a couple of weeks off and point for this race," said Frank Lucarelli, who trains Melba Jewel for owner Chris Randall. "I wasn't really surprised that she went to the lead today, but I didn't expect her to be able to open up three lengths so quickly. She is really bred to run on, so it is sort of a bonus that she is as quick as she is."

Melba Jewel, who is by Cahill Road from the French Legionaire matron Chasseur Dame, was purchased privately from breeder Dale Mahlum, the owner of Mahlum Thoroughbred Farms in Montana. Randall had purchased her half-sister, the speedy 3-year-old Marva Jean, at the 2001 WTBA summer sale for $12,500.

"The breeder called and said he had a half-sister to Marva Jean for sale," Lucarelli recalled. "At that time Marva Jean hadn't started yet, but I really liked her. I told Chris we should snap her up before we started Marva Jean, and he agreed.

"Being by Cahill Road, she should be able to run farther than Marva Jean. She is eligible for all the stakes here, so we're hoping she'll stay competitive as the distances get longer."

Initial Hall inductees

The first inductions into the Washington Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame will take place at a banquet to be held on the eve of the Inaugural Washington Cup Day, Sept. 20.

Three horses, three trainers, three jockeys, and one breeder from both before and after 1970 will be selected by a panel of 16 judges with long experience in the Washington Thoroughbred industry.

To be eligible for election, a horse must be a Washington-bred or must have raced at least twice in Washington. Trainers and jockeys must have been born in Washington or must have competed at Washington tracks for at least three full seasons. Breeders must have bred at least one Thoroughbred in Washington.

In coming years, nominees for all five categories will need to appear on 75 percent of the ballots and finish in the top three in the balloting in their respective categories to gain admission. There will be no more than three new inductees in any given year.

Each living inductee will be presented with an engraved plaque and a lifetime pass to all events at Emerald Downs. Plaques for all Hall of Fame members will be displayed in a designated area at Emerald Downs.