08/17/2006 11:00PM

Flamethrowintexan: Catch him if you can


AUBURN, Wash. - Flamethrowintexan will have 11 pursuers in Sunday's 71st running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs.

Flamethrowintexan, who will go to post as the 120-pound highweight under regular rider Ricky Frazier, has had the early lead in all but two of his 22 outings and in all but one of his 13 wins. He came from second in his other two starts, a second in his career debut and a resounding 8 1/2-length victory in the 2004 British Columbia Derby. Flamethrowintexan, a 5-year-old who races for Paul Heist's Grasshopper Stable, is coming off a sharp 4 1/2-length win in the nine-furlong Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap here on July 30. Kay Cooper, assistant to trainer Jim Penney, said he has continued to thrive since his Mile prep.

"He is on top of his game right now," Cooper said. "We couldn't be happier with the way he is coming into the race."

Two horses have the speed to pressure Flamethrowintexan early, though it is doubtful that either will attempt to do so. Quiet Cash has run his best races, including a second to No Giveaway in last year's Longacres Mile, from just off the pace. And Starbird Road, who is a model of versatility, is likely to avoid a grueling pace duel in what will be his first try beyond 6 1/2 furlongs.

Flamethrowintexan's chances were further enhanced when California shippers Southern Africa and Papi Chullo drew posts 10 and 11, respectively. Southern Africa, the second highweight at 119 pounds with Russell Baze riding, finished just behind Papi Chullo in last month's Grade 2 San Diego Handicap at Del Mar, but was moved up to third when Papi Chullo was disqualified from third and placed seventh for interference in the stretch.

Papi Chullo, who will be ridden by Robbie Albarado at 115 pounds, was beaten just 2 1/4 lengths by Giacomo in the San Diego. In his previous outing, he defeated a field of $62,500 optional claimers by five widening lengths after 7 1/2 furlongs in 1:27.40, good for a Beyer Speed Figure of 108.

Both Southern Africa, trained by Renton native Mike Puhich, and Papi Chullo, trained by J. Buenaventura Vargas, are stalkers who will be hard pressed to save ground on the first turn. They have two of the nation's most accomplished riders in Baze and Albarado, however, so it might prove rash to discount their chances.