07/04/2001 12:00AM

If Pete can rate, he should win


AUBURN, Wash. - Rambling Pete appears to be the one to beat in Friday's six-furlong feature at Emerald Downs, a $12,500 to $10,000 claiming race for nonwinners-of-two lifetime.

Rambling Pete, a gray-coated son of Petersburg and Rambling Pat, is one of only two 3-year-olds in the seven-horse field, and he will be meeting older rivals for the first time. Nevertheless, he is likely to be favored off his splendid effort in his most recent outing on June 22, when he dueled with Pazhalsta every step of the way before losing a nose decision after six furlongs in 1:10.60.

Rambling Pete came from slightly off the pace in his previous two starts - a maiden win over $6,250 rivals and a good third to the red- hot High Tailing in a $10,000 race - and the ability to be rated might be key to Rambling Pete's chances. He meets at least four front-runners, and will need to avoid a multiple horse speed duel. Nate Chaves will ride at 118 pounds.

Oaks Secret is an intriguing possibility. Four years old, Oaks Secret looked sharp winning his only start at Playfair last year, but he broke extremely slowly to lose all chance in his only start at this meeting.

Oaks Secret has plenty of room for improvement in just the third start of his career, and his closing style should be well-served by a fast and contested pace. Best of all, Oaks Secret figures to go off at double-digit odds under Lane Rennaker, a capable eastern Washington rider who has enjoyed excellent success with trainer Mel White in the past.