05/18/2006 11:00PM

Diamond Dollars looks fastest of all

Email

AUBURN, Wash. - What do we do with Diamond Dollars in Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Federal Way Handicap?

Diamond Dollars, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Stravinsky, showed good speed before tiring in both of her starts at Sunland Park earlier this spring, the first time against maiden special weight company and the next time against $12,500 maidens. She was claimed out of her second start by trainer Bill Tollett, who has been known to move horses up off the claim. Still, there was little to prepare fans for her Emerald Downs debut against $25,000 maidens on May 5.

Under apprentice Kate Repp, Diamond Dollars sprinted clear through a half-mile in 44 seconds, then drew out to score by seven lengths in 1:08.20 for six furlongs. That clocking was the fastest ever earned by a filly or mare going six furlongs at Emerald Downs, and it translated to a Beyer Speed Figure of 84, which dwarfs anything earned by her rivals on Sunday. But can she repeat that performance on Sunday's much higher class level?

"That's what we're going to find out," said Tollett. "I can tell you one thing, though. Her first two races were a lot better than they look on paper. She showed speed to a really tough bunch in her first race, which is why I wanted to claim her when they dropped her to $12,500. In her second start, she broke slowly and rushed up to duel for the lead with another filly, and she held on for third while the other filly finished dead last. Off that race, I really thought she would win her first race here."

Tollett admitted that he didn't expect Diamond Dollars to win the way she did, but he noted that she has trained like a good horse since her breakthrough effort.

"She worked extremely well on Wednesday morning," he said. "She went a half-mile in 47 flat, and she did it well within herself. Is she a stakes filly? I really don't know, but my guess is that she will run well on Sunday. I'm not saying she will win, but she has run faster than the others. That's not a bad place to start your handicapping."

Two pose biggest challenges

Diamond Dollars figures to be thoroughly tested for class by Devons Smokin and Chestnut Lady, the one-two finishers in the six-furlong U. S. Bank Stakes on opening weekend. Trainer Manny Calvario said Devons Smokin, who was sent here by California trainer Jeff Bonde, has continued to thrive since her local stakes win.

"The reason they sent her here was to try to get a win in her and build her confidence, and that is the way it has worked out," said Calvario. "The win really picked her head up. They know when they win, and it gives them a boost. She is very sharp now."

Chestnut Lady, who won last year's Barbara Shinpoch stakes at a mile, finished fast for second in the U. S. Bank Stakes. Trainer Jim Penney said the effort should move her forward.

"She didn't have a lot of luck in that race, but I had to like the way she finished," said Penney. "We would have liked to win that race, but I was encouraged by her effort. She has been training very nicely since then, and the extra distance on Sunday should help her a lot."

One more stakes try for The Case Queen

Trainer Tom Wenzel said The Case Queen may be getting her last shot at stakes company in the Federal Way. The Case Queen posted impressive wins over maiden special weight and allowance company here last season, but she finished last of 11 in the U. S. Bank Stakes.

"That race was just too bad to be true, so I've got to give her another chance," said Wenzel. "I'm hopeful that she can hang with Devons Smokin and Chestnut Lady if she runs her best race, but maybe she just isn't as good as those fillies. The honest truth is that she surprised me when she ran as well as she did last year, and now I don't know quite what to think. She deserves another chance, but if she runs poorly again we'll have to think about dropping her."

Forty Colors has boxcars potential

The bomber in Sunday's field could be Forty Colors, who is still a maiden after eight starts. Forty Colors was dismissed at 60-1 in the U. S. Bank Stakes, but she held fourth after showing the way under 121 pounds. Trainer Dayson Lavanway got an interim race into her, a second-place finish against maiden special weight company just a week after her stakes try, and she gets into the Federal Way under a feathery 110 pounds.

"People think I'm crazy to run her in stakes, but I think her race in the U.S. Bank shows she belongs," said Lavanway. "I ran her back too soon in the maiden race, and that was a mistake, but she still ran well. She is coming into this race a lot better, and I've got a rider who can make the weight, Benny Russell. I guarantee you she is live."

Ortega retires from race-riding

Rider Javier Ortega retired from riding last week after battling for years with rheumatoid arthritis.

"The pain got to be too much, and I felt it wasn't fair to me or the trainers to keep riding," he said. "Lately my hands have been so swollen that I could barely hold on to the reins."

Ortega, a leading rider at Portland Meadows who once won six races on Oregon-bred Day, rode 3 winners from 20 mounts at this meeting. He ended his career with 881 wins from 7,120 mounts.

Ortega has taken a job in the barn of trainer Doris Harwood with an eye to an eventual training career.