06/06/2006 11:00PM

Escalante may be solo up front

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AUBURN, Wash. - Everybody likes to see a strong finisher do his thing, but too many deep closers in the same field can leave the door wide open for a front-runner who is able to control the pace.

Escalante appears to be in that position in Friday's Emerald Downs feature, a $25,000 optional claimer at a mile that has drawn a field of 10 older horses.

Escalante, a 4-year-old son of Honor Grades from the barn of trainer Frank Lucarelli, does have two conceivable pace rivals in Palanca and Corvallis Dee, both of whom have shown speed on occasion. Palanca will be stretching out after only one sprint prep, however, and Corvallis Dee will be making his seasonal debut. Moreover, neither seems capable of matching strides for long with Escalante, who wired $25,000 company two races back at 5 1/2 furlongs.

Escalante is proven at a mile, having graduated at the distance last August. He also finished second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance race at Turf Paradise in January. Jockey Alfredo Miranda will have the task of rationing Escalante's speed at 121 pounds.

The main threats are former Portland Meadows horse of the meeting My Friend Dave, recent $30,000 starter allowance winner Confidential Call, and Turf Paradise optional claiming winner Fuzzyheaded Lizard, who is Escalante's stablemate. All three of those rivals, plus the others in the field, do their best running from far off the pace and would seem to require fast, or at least legitimate, fractions to target.