07/31/2006 11:00PM

Flamethrowintexan on target

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AUBURN, Wash. - Flamethrowintexan and Starbird Road each earned berths to the Aug. 20 Longacres Mile on Sunday, when they scored authoritative wins in two important preps. But while Flamethrowintexan is certain to run, Starbird Road will likely pass.

Flamethrowintexan has been pointing toward the Longacres Mile all year. Trainer Jim Penney and his daughter and assistant, Kay Cooper, held Flamethrowintexan out of last month's Independence Day Handicap in order to have Flamethrowintexan fresh for Sunday's $100,000 Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap, which he won by 4 1/2 lengths over 46-1 shot Don'twritemeoff.

Under regular rider Ricky Frazier, Flamethrowintexan went to the front at the start of the 1 1/8-mile race and was never seriously threatened, opening up a five-length advantage with a furlong to run before coasting home to score in 1:48 as the 4-5 favorite.

"It was a very good race for him, and it should set him up nicely for the Mile," said Cooper. "I'm glad the Mile is three weeks away, because he needs that much time between his races. He loves to train, so it shouldn't be any problem to bring him up to the Mile the way we want him."

Starbird Road is less likely to contest the Mile, despite his powerhouse win in Sunday's $40,000 Governor's Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. Under an alert ride by Debbie Hoonan, Starbird Road put early pressure on pacesetter Salt Grinder, then drew off late to defeat Salt Grinder by two lengths in 1:14.

It was the third win from four starts this year by Starbird Road, who has yet to try a distance beyond 6 1/2 furlongs. The lack of routing experience explains why owner Rick Beal and trainer Sharon Ross are reluctant to try Starbird Road in the Mile, which is contested at two turns.

"It's tough to try a horse in the Mile in the very first route race of his life," said Ross. "We entered him in an allowance race at a mile earlier in the meeting to test him at the distance, but the race didn't fill. Now we're in the position of testing him in the Mile, and that is a lot to ask of him."

Last year's Governor's winner, No Giveaway, was in the same position. He made his route debut in the Longacres Mile and scored a dramatic win at odds of 60-1.

"Starbird doesn't have the Dosage numbers that No Giveaway had, though, and Rick is a believer in Dosage numbers," said Ross. "I'm not ruling it out, but I might have my work cut out for me trying to convince Rick to run him in the Mile."

A Classic Life ruined by poor start

Dinner at Arlene's ran a terrific race in Saturday's $40,000 Boeing Handicap, leading throughout to score a 1 1/2-length win in stakes-record time. Most of the postrace talk, however, was about what happened to the 4-5 favorite, A Classic Life.

A Classic Life, who was shooting for her eighth win from nine starts at Emerald Downs, broke poorly and got away eight to 10 lengths behind the field, essentially losing all chance. She worked her way up to within three lengths of the leader with a quarter-mile to go, but tired and finished fourth, beaten 9 1/4 lengths.

"These things happen," said trainer Grant Forster. "It's all part of the game."

Nobody knows what would have happened if A Classic Life had gotten away cleanly, but it does seem likely that she would have needed the best effort of her career to beat Dinner at Arlene's on Saturday. A Classic Life's career-best Beyer is 82, a figure she has posted four times; Dinner at Arlene's earned a 90 Beyer in the Boeing.

"As it turned out, our filly would have been awfully tough to beat no matter what happened," said Doris Harwood, who trains Dinner at Arlene's for owner Jerre Paxton. "Still, it's too bad that A Classic Life lost her chance at the start. That's horse racing, though. It is why you enter a race even when there is an overwhelming favorite. You just never know what might happen."

Sabertooth wins $20,000 claimer

A Classic Life's mishap spoiled what was shaping up to be a banner day for Forster and his assistant, Blaine Wright. They had won the fourth race on Saturday's card, a maiden special weight affair for 2-year-old fillies, with first-time starter Include the Grand. Then they won the day's sixth race, a six-furlong event for $20,000 claimers, with former Longacres Mile winner Sabertooth.

Sabertooth, now 8, had been nominated for Sunday's Governor's, but his connections surprised everyone by dropping him in for the $20,000 tag. Sabertooth responded by posting an easy win in 1:08.60, his first victory since he set a world record at 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13 in last year's FSN Handicap.

"He's not quite the horse he used to be, and we didn't want to ask too much of him," said Wright. "A win like this one will be good for his confidence, though. Our goal all along for him has been the Chinook Pass Sprint on Washington Cup Day, and it looks like we might be back on track for that race."

Sabertooth's win lifted his career earnings at Emerald Downs to $301,988, good for fifth place on the track's list of money earners.