05/25/2006 11:00PM

Flamethrowintexan turns back clock

Flamethrowintexan will make a rare sprint appearance in Monday's FSN Handicap.

AUBURN, Wash. - When Flamethrowin-texan first arrived at Emerald Downs as a 3-year-old in July 2004, his past performances consisted of eight sprint races, five of which he had won. The big question at that time was: Can he go long?

He answered that question definitively with 7 wins from 11 subsequent races, all but one of them routes. Flamethrowintexan has routed so exclusively since he arrived in the barn of trainer Jim Penney that it might now be fair to ask: Can he still sprint?

The new question should be answered on Monday, when Flamethrowintexan takes on the best sprinters on the grounds in the 6 1/2- furlong FSN Handicap, but assistant trainer Kay Cooper doesn't think it holds much suspense.

"He has become such a versatile individual, I think he'll do whatever we ask him to do," said Cooper. "It's true that we put a lot of work into stretching him out, but he still has his speed. He worked six furlongs from the gate in 1:09.80 a couple of weeks ago, so there is no question he is still very fast. I really don't worry about sprinting him, especially when he is fresh."

Monday's engagement might be the only sprint try of the year for Flamethrowintexan, or it might not. Cooper said his schedule is in flux.

"We're looking at a lot of possible races for him," she said. "He gives us a lot of options. He loves the bullring at Hastings Park, and of course he ran well in California when he was down there. The only thing that is certain is that he will run in the Longacres Mile, assuming we can get him there in top form. The Mile is the main goal for him, of course."

The Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile, which the Penney barn has won four times, is scheduled for Aug. 20.

Tough spot for Flying Notes's return

Returning from a much longer layoff in the FSN will be Flying Notes, who was named horse of the meeting here in 2002 when he ran the fastest 1 1/8 miles in the nation while winning the Emerald Derby by a resounding 11 1/4 lengths. Flying Notes injured a tendon shortly thereafter and raced only once at 4 before aggravating his injury. He has now been away nearly three years, and trainer Bud Klokstad admitted he would rather bring him back in a softer spot.

"He'll go on Monday, but it's not exactly with my blessing," said Klokstad. "I would have preferred to bring him back in a nice little allowance race, but nothing filled for him."

Flying Notes has been working fast and Klokstad expects him to give his best, but he is by no means sure his best will still be good enough.

"He is 7 now, and they don't usually get better with age," he said. "He has worked well and he is as fit as I can get him, but who knows if he is still good enough? He worked six furlongs in 1:10 and change, but maybe that's as fast as he can go now. I can pretty much guarantee you that 1:10 and change won't get the job done on Monday. If you can't go down there in 1:08 and change, you're not going to get anything."

Starbird Road may scratch if track's wet

Starbird Road went six furlongs in 1:08.60 when he won the six-furlong Seattle Handicap here on April 30, and Spanish Highway finished just two lengths back in second. The connections of both horses expect them to move forward on Monday.

"He has been training super, and I don't think the extra sixteenth of a mile will hurt him at all," said Sharon Ross, who trains Starbird Road for owner Rick Beal. "My only real concern is the weather. I don't feel that he really likes the mud, so if the track is wet we'll have to think long and hard about running him. The good thing about a stakes race is that we can wait until the last minute to make up our minds."

As for Spanish Highway, trainer Bill Tollett said the 5-year-old is back in the form that earned him Washington-bred 3-year-old honors in 2004.

"He had some problems as a 4-year-old, but he seems to have gotten past them," said Tollett. "I was really pleased with the way he ran last time, and he will only get better with more distance. I'll be surprised if he doesn't improve off his last race on Monday."

Fisher seeks tips on Charlie's Pride

Trainer Steve Fisher reported that Portland Meadows Mile winner Charlie's Pride arrived at his barn here on Wednesday and will race at Emerald as soon as possible. Charlie's Pride, a lightly raced 5-year-old son of Indian Charlie, won all four of his starts at Portland Meadows for trainer R.G. Pierce.

Pierce is awaiting knee replacement surgery in Portland, however, and Charlie's Pride hasn't run well for other trainers. He was twice unplaced in California for trainer Bill McLean before his Portland Meadows Mile victory, and he ran sixth and last for trainer Tom Longstaff in the John Longden 6000 at Hastings last Sunday. Fisher said he thinks there is a lesson to be learned from Charlie's Pride's performances.

"I just think R.G. had the key to this horse, so I've been pumping him for information," said Fisher. "I want to do exactly what R G. did with him, and that means giving him plenty to do. R.G. worked him a mile a week before the Portland Meadows Mile, then he blew him out two days before the race, then he blew him out again a day before the race. He is a big, heavy horse who needs a lot of work. That's why I'm anxious to run him back right away."