05/11/2006 11:00PM

Four track champs in one race


AUBURN, Wash. - Sunday's six-furlong Hastings Park Handicap for fillies and mares at Emerald Downs will feature four of the track's past champions.

The local champs are A Classic Life, who was named the track's top 2-year-old filly in 2005; Queenledo, last year's best 3-year-old filly; Karis Makaw, the top older filly or mare at last year's stand; and Marva Jean, who was honored as Emerald's best sprinter in 2005.

Marva Jean secured her award by winning her first four starts here last season. After prepping with an allowance win, she ran off scores in the Hastings Park, the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators, and the six-furlong Betsy Ross. Under rider Mick Ruis, Marva Jean seemed to perfect a style that saw her relaxing while attending the early pace, opening up a big lead on the turn, then digging in late to stave off the closers.

Remembering her brilliant early season form, fans made Marva Jean a 2-1 favorite when she came out in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance prep on April 22. She again opened up a big lead on the turn under new rider Jorge Ayarza, but she tired through the stretch to finish fourth, beaten three lengths by Turf Paradise shipper Kissntheboysgoodby.

"I wasn't really surprised that she got beat," said trainer Frank Lucarelli. "She just doesn't look very good to me right now. Her coat turned dull when I brought her back from Phoenix this spring, and it still hasn't slicked out the way I would like."

Nevertheless, Lucarelli said Marva Jean continues to train very well.

"She worked a half-mile in 46.20 the other day, so maybe I'm making too much of the way her coat looks," he said. "She broke a little slowly in the allowance race, and maybe that made her work a little too hard early on. I thought Jorge rode her well, but she broke slowly and maybe she was a little short. I hope she can do better on Sunday.

A Classic Life capable in sprint

A Classic Life, who came back to win last year's Washington Oaks after winning the Barbara Shinpoch Stakes here at 2, has made her reputation going long. Trainer Grant Forster said she won't simply be prepping for something longer when she runs on Sunday, however.

"There is no question that she is at her best routing, but she fits class-wise, she is fresh, and she is doing very, very well right now," said Forster. "She worked brilliantly the other day when she went five furlongs in 57.80, so I'm excited about getting her going."

Despite his regard for A Classic Life, Forster stopped well short of predicting a win for his stable star in the Hastings Park.

"There are a lot of very nice fillies and mares here this year, so it will be tough to win any of the stakes for that division," he said. "I think it is the deepest division we've got, and when they start sending horses like Regal Red and Monashee down here from Canada it will only be tougher."

Queenledo sharpens her speed

Queenledo has already taken on the best that British Columbia has to offer. She ended her 3-year-old campaign with a solid second to Monashee in the nine-furlong B.C. Oaks, and began her current season in the April 16 Brighouse Belles at Hastings.

Queenledo did not show her usual tactical speed in the 6 1/2-furlong Brighouse Belles, dropping back to last, nine lengths off the pace, before coming on late to get fourth behind Spirit to Spare.

"That was just a bad job of training on my part," said trainer Tim McCanna. "I didn't put enough speed into her and she ran the way I trained her. She did finish well and that was encouraging, but I just didn't bring her into that race the right way. Fortunately, they can't fire me because I own part of her."

Leery of making the same mistake twice, McCanna drilled Queenledo five furlongs in a sizzling 57.80 seconds last Friday, then brought her back for a three-furlong blowout in 36.20 on Thursday.

"She should be on her toes for this one," said McCanna. "She really went well in the five-furlong work, and she seems to be coming into this race in the right way. I really thought she would win the race in Canada, but maybe she can make amends on Sunday."

Handicapping tourney date set

The date for Emerald's fifth annual Ultimate Qualifying Tournament for the Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship has been set for Sunday, July 30. The local tournament, which features an estimated $40,000 in prizes, will produce nine qualifiers for the Championship, which will be held in Las Vegas in January with a purse expected to exceed $800,000.

Registration for the Ultimate Qualifying Tournament will begin at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17. Players can register by calling 253-288-7711. The cost to enter is $125 and the contest is limited to the first 400 entries.