07/06/2007 12:00AM

The Great Face should be long gone


AUBURN, Wash. - The Great Face will be the one to catch and beat in Sunday's top offering at Emerald Downs, a 6 1/2-furlong test for $50,000 optional claimers that has drawn a field of six.

The Great Face, a 5-year-old from the barn of trainer Tom Wenzel, began this meeting with a bang when he won the 5 1/2-furlong opening night feature, which was also a $50,000 optional claiming event, by 5 1/4 lengths while equaling the North American record time for the distance on dirt of 1:01.20. He followed that big effort with a fourth in the six-furlong Seattle Handicap and a game second in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap before faltering last time out in the Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile. The Great Face, who is a confirmed front-runner, broke well behind his field in the Budweiser Emerald and effectively lost all chance. If his gate problems do not recur, he should be awfully hard to reel in on Sunday. Regular rider Juan Gutierrez has the mount at 124 pounds.

The Great Face figures to get his sternest opposition from Norm's Nephew, who won last year's Muckleshoot Classic at 1 1/16 miles after placing in three other stakes. Norm's Nephew, a 5-year-old trained by Jimmy Orr, finished eighth last time out in the Budweiser Emerald, but he was only a neck behind The Great Face when third in the FSN and he has finished in the top three in all four of his attempts at 6 1/2 furlongs. Leading rider Ricky Frazier will take over the mount.

Also dangerous are the Howard Belvoir trainees Courting Seattle and Wasserman, who will race uncoupled owing to separate ownership.