08/04/2004 11:00PM

Experience may be key for 'Billy'


AUBURN, Wash. - A field of seven promising 2-year-olds, including a pair of soft entries, will contest Saturday's $40,000 Strong Ruler Stakes, a 6 1/2-furlong race at Emerald Downs.

Trainer Frank Lucarelli will saddle Billy Stark and Indian Weaver, and trainer Craig Roberts will send out Najah and Magna Tice in Saturday's stakes, which is restricted to horses whose sires were nominated in the year of their conception. Neither the Lucarelli nor the Roberts trainees will be coupled in the wagering because of separate ownership.

Billy Stark, a son of Cahill Road, may be the most accomplished runner in the field after defeating maiden special weight runners on July 5 and finishing fourth in the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes on July 17. His stablemate, Indian Weaver, recently arrived from northern California, where he twice ran second against maiden special weight company at Pleasanton and Solano for trainer Ed Moger Jr.

"Ed sent him up here to run in a maiden special weight race, but when the stakes came up a little light he decided to try to break his maiden for a $22,000 winner's prize," Lucarelli said.

It may be recalled that Lucarelli saddled No Curfew for Moger in the 1999 Gottstein Futurity, only to see that one win a tight photo over the Lucarelli-trained Cascade Casey.

Najah, who won his maiden on the $40,000 level, is coming off a second against allowance company on July 31, while Magna Tice defeated $25,000 maidens in 1:10.80 for six furlongs on July 30.

The sleeper in the field might be Pelly Pinecone, a son of Slewdledo trained by Howard Belvoir.