05/10/2007 11:00PM

Immigration faces threat up front


AUBURN, Wash. - Immigration will have five challengers when he launches his 3-year-old campaign in Sunday's $45,000 Auburn Stakes at six furlongs.

Immigration, a son of Delineator from the barn of trainer Howard Belvoir, was undefeated in four sprint attempts here last season and was a daylight winner of the Emerald Express, the Strong Ruler and the Captain Condo stakes. The lone blemish on his record was an eighth-place finish in the one-mile WTBA Lads Stakes. Immigration has trained exceptionally well for his seasonal debut and will be ridden by regular rider Jennifer Whitaker at 119 pounds, but he must break from the sometimes-troublesome rail post.

Immigration, a front-runner, figures to be challenged for the lead by Call on Carson, a son of Lord Carson who was claimed by trainer Dan Markle at Golden Gate for just $12,500 on Feb. 4. Though he ran fourth that day, Markle entered him back at the maiden special weight level here on April 20, and Call on Carson posted an impressive five-length win while leading past every pole. Call on Carson cut fractions of 21.80 and 44.60 seconds en route to a nifty 1:02.20 clocking for 5 1/2 furlongs, and would appear to have enough speed to make Immigration work for the lead, if not to top him. Call on Carson will break from post 6 under Kevin Radke at 117 pounds.

Other newcomers to the local stakes ranks are Healing Waters, who was claimed by trainer Valorie Lund for $16,000 at Turf Paradise on April 9, and Strength, who was purchased privately by owners Mike Lund and Paul Bryant after winning a $50,000 maiden claiming race at Bay Meadows in March. Strength is trained locally by Frank Lucarelli, who has been impressed with his new charge.

"I've had him a month now, and he seems like a real nice horse," said Lucarelli. "He is a good-looking horse, and he has trained well, but we really don't have a clue where he will fit here. He did run against some nice horses in California, though, and he should have a fitness advantage over some of the local horses."

Also entered are Liberty for Al, who ran second to Immigration in last year's Emerald Express, and Jamaica Bound. Jamaica Bound, who is still a maiden after three starts, closed strongly for second behind Call on Carson in his 3-year-old debut here on opening night.