07/15/2005 12:00AM

It's a big jump, but it's possible


AUBURN, Wash. - Can a recent winner over maiden claiming company beat multiple winners while stepping up in class?

Most experienced handicappers would be skeptical of that proposition, but Irishskysarsmiling will try to prove them wrong when he takes on seven rivals in Sunday's Emerald Downs feature, a $25,000 optional claiming test for older horses at six furlongs.

Irishskysarsmiling, a 4-year-old from the barn of trainer Bill Tollett, graduated over $25,000 maidens in his sixth career start on June 24. It was an especially impressive effort, however, as he came from 2 1/2 lengths back in second to collar a loose-on-the-lead Corner Kick, who did not appear to be tiring in the least. Irishskysarsmiling prevailed by three-quarters of a length in 1:10.40 for six furlongs.

Irishskysarsmiling will face a much tougher test on Sunday, but his good early speed could prove to be the equalizer. His only apparent pace rival, Ob'sbaby B, has been dull in two starts at the meeting and is coming off a 48-day layoff. If Irishskysarsmiling can dispose of Ob'sbaby B in time to catch a breather on the turn, he could prove very hard to overhaul.

The favorite's role in Sunday's headliner will likely go to Gold Lad, who will be making his Emerald Downs debut for leading trainer Tim McCanna. Gold Lad, a 4-year-old son of Gold Fever, won four races in California, including 3 of 6 at six furlongs.