08/02/2011 4:37PM

Emerald Downs: Closely matched trio tangle again

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AUBURN, Wash. – Snake Attack, Highdleburg, and A K Racer, who finished within a half-length of each other when they last met, will knock heads again Thursday in the feature race at Emerald Downs. The eight-race card begins at 6:15 p.m. Pacific, and the feature, a $7,500 claimer for older horses at six furlongs, is the seventh race.

Snake Attack prevailed narrowly on July 21 under similar conditions, inching away from Highdleburg in the final yards after a spirited speed duel that began shortly after the start. A K Racer, rank and hard to handle in the early stages, rallied to reach contention and finished on near-even terms with Highdleburg, a half-length behind the winner. Handicappers will be hard-pressed to separate these three on Thursday, and any of the three could start as the betting favorite in an eight-horse field.

Trained by Larry Wolf, Highdleburg won three times at Emerald Downs in 2010 but has been unlucky at the current meeting, finishing a close second in three consecutive starts after setting or pressing a fast pace each time. Regular rider Gallyn Mitchell is back aboard, and Highdleburg drew the outside post position, a potential asset in a field with several like-minded speed horses. After getting trapped inside horses in his past two starts, Highdleburg could get a more relaxed trip from the outside on Thursday.

Snake Attack has seven victories and is 6 for 11 at Thursday’s distance. He’s never won back-to-back starts during his 26-race career, but with the sizzling Juan Gutierrez in the saddle for trainer Jim Penney, he figures to be prominent throughout. It’s the same story for A K Racer, a speedy Florida-bred who has two wins, a second, and a third in five starts at the meeting, all for trainer Tim McCanna. He’ll be ridden by Joe Crispin.

Others in the field include Destinys Roar, who finished a fast-closing third in a mixed Quarter Horse-Thoroughbred dash over 870 yards in his last start; Passion Lives Here and Chaching Pete, both triumphant against $7,500 nonwinners of three in their most recent outing; Vaderator, who picks up leading rider Leslie Mawing after finishing a close second for $5,000 in his last start; and Siberian Cocktail, who ran six furlongs in 1:08.80 at Emerald Downs last August.

Highdleburg, Vaderator, and Siberian Cocktail are most likely to vie for the early lead, with Snake Attack and A K Racer tucked in close behind. If the pace is hot, late-runners Chaching Pete and Passion Lives Here could make their presence felt in the final furlong.