09/10/2003 11:00PM

Five-horse feature par for program

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AUBURN, Wash. - Emerald Downs will present the sparsest weekend card in its eight-year history on Saturday, when just 51 horses will contest only eight races.

The feature contributes to the disappointing totals, as only five older runners were entered to contest a one-mile race for $16,000 to $14,000 claimers.

Misconception, the one to beat, will be shooting for his fifth win from eight starts at the meet. Misconception, a 6-year-old from the barn of trainer Aubrey Villyard, has collected all his wins by leading throughout in two-turn races. He is coming off an easy two-length score over $16,000 rivals on Aug. 31, when he sped a mile in 1:35.40. Misconception drew the rail and regular rider Gallyn Mitchell can be expected to again put him on the lead.

Misconception could have company, however, as both Star of Elttaes and Angel Springs also have keen speed. Star of Elttaes will be stretching out to a mile off a sharp score at 6 1/2 furlongs on Sept. 5, when he got the distance in 1:15.40. Angel Springs posted his lone win at the meeting over $25,000 company at a mile in July, when he contested a fast pace and held on to score by a neck over Premium Blend in 1:36.60.

Should a speed duel develop, an opportunity might arise for Predominator and Premium Blend. Predominator closed from seventh to be third, beaten just a length by Star of Elttaes, in his last start on Sept. 5. Premium Blend has finished seventh and fourth against $25,000 company in two starts since losing the close decision to Angel Springs in July, and might perk up with a class drop.