05/17/2004 11:00PM

Is 'Elttaes' one-track wonder?


AUBURN, Wash. - Portland Meadows sharpster Star of Elttaes will take on five rivals in Thursday's best race at Emerald Downs, a six-furlong optional $25,000 claiming race for older sprinters.

Star of Elttaes made three starts at Portland Meadows this year, and he won them all. Star of Elttaes, a 6-year-old son of Star de Naskra, won a 5 1/2-furlong allowance test in February, the six- furlong Governor's Speed Handicap in March, and the five- furlong Flashaway Owners' Handicap in April. He won all of those outings in fast times and by daylight margins, and he looked a winner every step of the way.

The question on Thursday isn't whether Star of Elttaes can handle the local surface. In fact, he boasts a record of 6 wins from 29 starts at Emerald. The question is whether he handles it as well as he handled the track in Portland, where he raised his game to a new level. If he can maintain that form, Star of Elttaes should prove very difficult to deny under regular rider Juan Gutierrez, who again has the call from trainer Steve Fisher.

Heading the opposition is America West, an impressive winner over maiden special weight company in his third career start on May 1. America West, a 4-year-old from the barn of trainer Tom Wenzel, won by nearly six lengths in 1:10 for six furlongs and would appear to have ample room for further improvement.

Also on Thursday is the initial installment of this year's Stanislaw Ashbaugh Series, which rewards horses eligible for $3,200 starter allowance conditions with enhanced purses. The 6 1/2-furlong race has drawn a field of eight.