06/28/2005 11:00PM

Haven't seen the last of Thirsty Guy's

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AUBURN, Wash. - Thirsty Guy's just ducked into Emerald Downs for a quick withdrawal on Sunday, picking up the $31,900 winner's prize for the Tacoma Handicap and then heading straight home to trainer Phil Oviedo's barn at Bay Meadows.

He'll be back, however.

"We'll bring him back for the Emerald Derby on Labor Day if he is still doing well," said Oviedo. "What he does between now and then depends on how knocked out he is from this race."

Thirsty Guy's, a California-bred son of Kahuna Jack, had reason to be tired after his effort in the one-mile Tacoma. Under regular rider Macario Rodriguez, he dueled hard through six furlongs in 1:10.60 before putting away pace rival Marsh Creek, then had to dig deep to stave off Datzig by a neck in 1:37.80. Confidential Call, who finished fastest of all, was just another neck back in third.

Oviedo said the only thing about the Tacoma that went according to plan was the finish. He and Rodriguez had planned to sit off the pace of the favored Norm's Nephew, who went a half-mile in 43.40 en route to winning last month's 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap by five lengths. Norm's Nephew broke a step slowly from the rail post, however, and his rider, Debbie Hoonan, elected to tuck him in behind the leaders in fourth position, where he stayed throughout.

Rodriguez said he wasn't sure what to do with Thirsty Guy's when Norm's Nephew broke slowly. Then he saw Kevin Krigger and Marsh Creek on the lead by themselves.

"I thought I'd better go up there before he got away from us," Rodriguez said. "It made for a tough race and my horse was getting tired at the end, but I just kept telling him, 'Come on buddy, you can do it.'"

It was the fourth win from 10 starts for Thirsty Guy's, who went off as the second choice at 3-1. Oviedo said he purchased Thirsty Guy's privately as a yearling and offered the horse to a group of his friends who meet every Thursday afternoon in co-owner Chuck Gust's restaurant and bar in Pacifica, Calif.

"When I told them they could name the horse they all started reaching for their wallets," said the trainer. "They wanted to name him Thirsty Thursday, because that's what we call our weekly get-together, but that didn't sound quite right, so they settled on Thirsty Guy's."

Thirsty Guy's made his first nine starts for Oviedo, but he was saddled on Sunday by local trainer Mark Rheinford.

"Mark has been stabled next to me at Bay Meadows for the last couple years, so I knew he was an excellent young horseman," said Oviedo. "I had no qualms at all about sending him the horse. I hope to do the same thing for the Emerald Derby."

Belvoir loaded with young horses

Trainer Howard Belvoir figures to have an awfully strong hand when the first stakes here for 2-year-old colts and geldings, the six-furlong Emerald Express, rolls around on July 30. There have only been two maiden special weight races for the division at this meeting, and Belvoir has saddled the winners of both.

Belvoir won the first maiden special weight race for colts and geldings with the Doneraille Court gelding Courting Seattle on June 5. Courting Seattle went five furlongs in 57.60 for a 62 Beyer. On Sunday he won the second with the You and I gelding Tusko T., who went 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:04.40 for a Beyer of 64. Those are the two highest Beyers registered by juveniles of either sex at the meeting.

"I've got a lot of nice young horses this year, both 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds," said Belvoir, who also trains the good 3-year-olds Wasserman and Seattles Best Joe. "We could have a lot of fun if I don't mess them up."

Hoping for repeat success

Owner Paul Heist and trainer Jim Penney are hoping lightning strikes twice with Be a Halo, a 3-year-old son of Halo's Image whom Heist claimed for $50,000 at Arlington Park June 18.

At about the same time last year - June 24, to be precise - Heist claimed Flamethrowintexan for $62,500 at Hollywood Park in hopes of winning the Emerald Derby. Flamethrow-intexan ran second to My Creed in the derby, but he has won 4 of 6 starts for Heist, including the Grade 3 B.C. Derby, for almost $300,000 in earnings.

Be a Halo, who will also be pointed toward the Emerald Derby, ran second on the day he was claimed and sports a record of 2 wins, 5 seconds and 2 thirds from 10 starts. He has not yet been tried beyond six furlongs.

Packy getting ready for return

Packy, who posted a dazzling seven-length win over maiden special weight company in his only start here last year as a juvenile, worked three furlongs in 36 seconds for trainer Jose Navarro last Saturday.

Packy, a son of Petersburg who races for West Ridge Ranch LLC, raced twice after leaving Emerald. He finished second in an $80,000 optional claiming event at Santa Anita on Jan. 13, then ran 10th to Lost in the Fog in the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream June 29. His bullet drill on Saturday was his first official workout since the Gulfstream outing.