07/01/2002 11:00PM

Diglett back at a track he craves

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AUBURN, Wash. - Diglett, who shipped to Emerald Downs last year to post an impressive victory in the 1 1/16-mile Washington Owners' Breeders' Cup for 3-year-olds, will again invade to take on the cream of the local handicap ranks in Thursday's Independence Day Handicap at the same 1 1/16-mile distance.

Diglett, a Washington-bred son of Alnaab, recorded one of the most impressive wins at last year's meeting in the Washington Owners' Breeders' Cup, winning by more than six lengths over Poker Brad in a rapid 1:41.60.

He has not duplicated that effort in three starts as a 4-year-old at Hastings Park, but he has registered a third and two seconds in three stakes tries, including a second to Kid Katabatic last time out in the 1 1/16-mile John Longden Stakes on June 9. Trainer Gary Demorest hopes the return to Emerald's one-mile track help Diglett regain his winning stride.

"We've been running him in Canada because we're stabled there and most of his connections are up there, but he really likes a mile track," said Demorest. "Also, we're not sure he is a Longacres Mile-caliber horse, and we want to find out."

Diglett's five rivals in the Independence Day are headed by the Sharon Ross-trained duo of Secret Launch and Moonlight Meeting.

Secret Launch comes off a sharp score in the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 16, when he got a mile in a near-track record 1:33.40, while Moonlight Meeting ran second in the Grade 3 All American Handicap at Bay Meadows when last in action on June 8.

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