07/13/2004 11:00PM

'Duke' after four-race win streak

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AUBURN, Wash. - Duke of Kent, a razor-sharp winner of his last three outings, and the always- formidable Firefall will head a field of 10 older horses in Friday's first leg of the Harley Hoppe and Associates Marathon Series, which will be contested under $10,000 starter allowance conditions at nine furlongs.

Duke of Kent, a 4-year-old son of Afternoon Deelites, began his streak with a 4 1/2-length victory over $7,500 company in his six-furlong Emerald Downs debut on June 12. He came back to win on the same level at a mile on June 20, when he was claimed by the partnership of Maus, Wagner, and Rivera. Duke of Kent then defeated $10,000 rivals at six furlongs in his first start for his new trainer, Frank Lucarelli, on July 5. In his lone prior try at 1 1/8 miles, Duke of Kent ran second under $40,000 starter allowance conditions in February at Golden Gate.

Firefall has not been worse than second in five starts at the current meeting, and his career record at Emerald is a sterling 14-8-2-0. Firefall, an 8-year-old from the barn of trainer Bill Tollett, is coming off a game three-quarters of a length win over Mr. Fix at a mile under $3,200 starter allowance conditions on July 1.

Also dangerous are Big Bad Bue, who defeated $10,000 starter allowance company at a mile on May 30 in his only local start, and Mr. Melcap, a sharp winner over $5,000 company at a mile just a week ago. Both Big Bad Bue, who is trained by Sharon Ross, and Mr. Melcap, who will be saddled by trainer Doris Harwood, have good early speed and are expected to compete for the early advantage.