06/25/2007 11:00PM

Entry tops field lacking early pace

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AUBURN, Wash. - Veterans West Seattle Boy and Wally Ballou will form a powerful entry in Thursday's Emerald Downs feature, a 1 1/16-mile race for $15,000 claimers that has drawn a field of eight.

The 8-year-old West Seattle Boy and the 9-year-old Wally Ballou, both of whom are trained by Rigoberto Velasquez and owned in part by Lisa Baze, have combined for 116 starts and 22 wins. West Seattle Boy has 13 of those wins, and he is coming off a narrow miss in a $15,000 claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs on June 2. Wally Ballou, a nine-time winner, also is racing in sharp form. Wally Ballou ran second in a $22,500 claiming affair at a mile when last seen on Juneo10.

Neither of the entrymates has early speed, and the same could be said of their rivals. The pacesetting chores might therefore fall to Coach Sween, who has never been closer than third at the first call in any of his 12 races. Coach Sween, a 4-year-old son of Defensive Play from the barn of trainer Dan Markle, remained within two lengths of the pace through a half-mile in 46.60 in the mile event for $22,500 claimers on June 10. He tired to finish seventh after racing wide around both turns that day, but the same early effort could have him cruising on an easy lead Thursday.

Fierce Cat has been coming from well off the pace of late, but he showed speed earlier in his career and could challenge for the lead if he reverts to his former style.