08/24/2001 12:00AM

Divisonal lead up for grabs in Lads Stakes


AUBURN, Wash. - With less than a month remaining in the Emerald Downs season, most of the divisions have clear leaders, if not champions. But that is not the case with the 2-year-old colts and geldings, who will be on display in Sunday's $40,000 Washington Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Lads Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs.

The three stakes run for the division thus far have produced three different winners, with Kenny Hawk winning the five-furlong Captain Condo Stakes, Melcapwalker capturing the six-furlong Emerald Express, and Devil's Enemy taking the colt and gelding division of the Northwest Stallion Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 4.

In the Stallion Stakes, Devil's Enemy went to the lead at the start and staved off the late charge of Kenny Hawk to prevail by a length in a rather pedestrian 1:18.20.

"The final time wasn't much," said Tim McCanna, who trains Devil's Enemy for owner Bill Feeley. "But he went the half-mile in 44.80, so I thought he did well to hang on for the win. He should finish stronger this time."

Frank Lucarelli, the trainer of Kenny Hawk, is also looking for an improved effort from the Game Plan colt, who is owned by Dave Reising.

"He had been off a month and a half before the Stallion Stakes, and during that time he had two abscesses in his foot," Lucarelli said. "I didn't get nearly as many works into him as I would have liked, so I think he just came up a little short. He got a lot out of that race and he came back to work five furlongs in 59 and change, so he should be tougher on Sunday."

Melcapwalker, a rangy son of Skywalker who races for Arthur McFadden, was not eligible for the Stallion Stakes and has consequently not raced since he won the Emerald Express on July 14. That might be just as well, since Melcapwalker collected his maiden win just a week before his stakes victory and was due for a rest.

"It has worked out okay," said trainer Bud Klokstad, who will also saddle recent maiden special weight winner Finleycreek for the Lads. "Melcapwalker has trained well, and hopefully he has matured some. He raced pretty green when he won the Emerald Express, but I thought he showed a lot of ability that day. He still hasn't run a fast time, but I think he's going to be a nice horse.

"I also think Finleycreek has a lot of potential. It took him four starts to break his maiden, but he needed those races. He was green, but he got better each time he raced. He'll be coming back in eight days, but that doesn't concern me. He is fit enough to do that."

Two other horses who are coming off maiden wins figure to have a lot to say about Sunday's outcome.

Bold Range has not raced since posting an extremely impressive 8 3/4-length victory over the subsequently stakes-placed Beat the Klok on May 13. In his only prior race, he finished second to Devil's Enemy.

"The rider blew her irons in his debut, so it was pretty impressive that he was able to get second," said trainer Mark Molina. "He showed what he could do in his second start, but he came out of that race with some physical problems and we lost time with him. He has been working every six days for the last month and he just worked six furlongs in 1:12.20, but there is still a question of whether he is fit enough."

Also dangerous is American Writer, a Quiet American colt out of Pleas Write, the champion mare at Emerald's inaugural meeting in 1996. The Ron Crockett homebred finished a distant fifth in his debut, then came back to defeat maiden special weight runners by three lengths Aug. 4.

"I was shocked that he didn't run better in his first race because he had done everything so easy in the mornings," said trainer Terry Gillihan. "I have no idea why he ran so poorly, but he made up for it in his second start. I don't think I've ever had a horse improve so much in his second start. I've always thought he was a nice colt, though, and I just hope I can get him to run to his potential."