07/26/2007 11:00PM

The Great Face stretches out in Mile prep


AUBURN, Wash. - For local horses hoping to make it to this year's Grade 3, $400,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 19, the road forks Sunday.

Some of the hopefuls will prep in the $45,000 Governor's Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs, while others will go in the $70,000 Mt. Rainier Handicap at 1 1/8 miles. The choices for at least a couple went contrary to expectations.

The Great Face, for example, has proven himself to be a brilliant sprinter. The 5-year-old has won 5 of 10 sprints, including a world-record-equaling performance of 1:01.20 for 5 1/2 furlongs in his seasonal bow and a 6 1/2-furlong score over allowance rivals in 1:13.80 in his most recent outing on July 8. He also is 1 for 2 at a mile, but he finished out of the money in his only try beyond a mile in the 2005 Muckleshoot Classic at 1 1/16 miles. Nevertheless, The Great Face will contest the Mt. Rainier.

"If he is going to have any chance in the Longacres Mile, we need to build up his stamina," trainer Tom Wenzel said. "We really don't need to work on his speed. The Mt. Rainier seems the right path for him to take because it will prepare him better for the Mile."

While it can't be denied that the connections of The Great Face are looking beyond the Mt. Rainier to the Mile, it does not follow that they are conceding the Mt. Rainier. Wenzel feels he will be sending out a dangerous horse Sunday.

"I think the jury is still out as to whether he wants to go this far," he said. "He won his first try around two turns very easily, and in the Muckleshoot Classic he dueled with Sabertooth through insanely fast fractions. This year, I really thought I had him ready to win the Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile, but he lost his best chance when he broke slowly. His pedigree doesn't really prohibit him from getting nine furlongs because both his sire and his granddam Bix's Bet were routers. If he can bounce out of there and get a comfortable lead, I think he'll be very dangerous."

Flamethrowintexan taking different path

Trainer Jim Penney, who has won a record five Longacres Miles, has preferred to prep for the big race in the Mt. Rainier since that race was inaugurated when Emerald Downs opened in 1996. He did that with Edneator in 2000, with Sabertooth in 2002, and again with Flamethrowintexan last year. All three won, of course, and Penney had hoped that Flamethrowintexan could take the same route this year. Unfortunately, fate intervened.

"He got really sick after he ran in the [May 28] FSN Handicap, and he missed quite a bit of training," said Penney's assistant, Kay Cooper. "We had to skip the Budweiser Emerald and, as a result, he is not ready to go 1 1/8 miles. We'll have to prep him in the Governor's."

Cooper feels Flamethrowintexan is more than ready to go 6 1/2 furlongs, especially after working six furlongs in 1:09.20 on Tuesday.

"He really did it very handily, and we're satisfied with the way he is coming up to this race," she said. "If he runs the way we think he will, it should set him up just fine for the Mile."

Knight's Secret: "Just a very fast horse"

Trainer Sharon Ross lost the most accomplished sprinter in her barn, Starbird Road, to a suspensory injury in June, but she may have a worthy successor to last year's sprinter of the meeting. Ross will send out Knight's Secret for his stakes debut in the Governor's Handicap.

Though 5, Knight's Secret has raced only three times. He made a splash in his second start at 3 in October of 2005, defeating maiden special weight company with six furlongs in a dazzling 1:08. He missed all of his 4-year-old campaign with a tendon injury, but came back on June 3 of this year to drub allowance company by three lengths in 1:14.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs.

The unlucky Knight's Secret subsequently missed some training with a small quarter crack in one hoof, but he demonstrated his readiness for Sunday's test with a five-furlong workout in 56.40 on Tuesday.

"It was kind of scary to see him go that fast, but he bounced out of it just fine and ate up all his dinner that night," said Ross. "He's just a very fast horse."

* Trainer Tim McCanna reported that Poker Brad, who had been pointing toward the Mt. Rainier, has been sidelined with a swollen tendon sheath. McCanna said the injury is slight and he hopes to get the 9-year-old back to the races this year.

* Jockey Joe Crispin tore tendons in his foot in a gate mishap July 20 and is expected to be out of action for about four weeks, according to agent Denise Mitchell.

* Trainer Grant Forster said Brother Bobby, who ran second in last year's Seattle Slew Handicap here, is at Monmouth Park preparing for the nine-furlong Iselin Handicap on Aug. 18. Forster said he had considered running Brother Bobby in the Longacres Mile, which the trainer won with No Giveaway in 2005, but he concluded that his horse needs more ground.