08/04/2006 12:00AM

Courting Seattle out to stay on top


AUBURN, Wash. - Divisional leadership will again be up for grabs Sunday at Emerald Downs when a field of 10 3-year-olds contest the $65,000 Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.

Courting Seattle has a tenuous perch atop the local 3-year-old division by virtue of his second-place finish to the now-injured Livinonlovanadime in last month's Tacoma Handicap at a mile. Courting Seattle led to the shadow of the wire before dropping a half-length decision to Livinonlovanadime, but held second by half a length over Ragin Nonno. Courting Seattle, a winner of three of his six starts, captured the six-furlong Auburn Handicap here in May. Trainer Howard Belvoir has again named Jennifer Whitaker to ride at 118 pounds.

Ragin Nonno ran fourth in the Auburn and second to Raise the Bluff in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap before his third-place finish in the Tacoma, and he endured difficult trips in all three of those races. He may have an advantage over most of the field on Sunday, however, as he got to prep for the Seattle Slew in a one-mile allowance on July 16. Ragin Nonno, a son of Naevus trained by Dave Bennett, lost a head decision to Zillah's Knight in that race, but it was determined that Zillah's Knight's rider inadvertently struck Ragin Nonno in the face with his whip, and Zillah's Knight was disqualified. Kevin Krigger will take over the mount on Ragin Nonno at 118 pounds.

Zillah's Knight would be seeking his fourth straight win on Sunday were it not for his recent disqualification. Trainer Steve Koler claimed him for Lucky 5 Stable out of a 7 3/4-length win over modest $12,500 company at six furlongs on June 4, then wheeled him back to win a mile allowance race on June 26 before he was disqualified from the win on July 16.

"We claimed him to route, and he has responded very well to distance racing," said Koler. "It's too bad he got disqualified last time, but he got to have his picture taken in the winner's circle, and he thinks he won. He is full of confidence."

Also dangerous is Raise the Bluff, who ran an even sixth in the Tacoma after winning the Pepsi Cola Handicap in convincing fashion. Raise the Bluff, who is trained by Junior Coffey, is proven at the Seattle Slew distance. He dropped a close decision to Schoolin You in the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity here last season.