09/23/2009 11:00PM

Koala Beach has few legit foes in Gottstein

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AUBURN, Wash. - No Hollywood Harbor. No Knight Raider. No Forener. Yet even without Emerald Downs's top 2-year-olds in the field, the $75,000 Gottstein Futurity will be run as scheduled Saturday.

Traditionally the race that determines the Northwest's 2-year-old champion, but the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein will play no such role Saturday, though Koala Beach, should he win, would merit consideration as a two-time stakes winner at the meeting. A smashing eight-length winner of the restricted Dennis Dodge Stakes two weeks ago, he figure to be a short-priced favorite in a seven-horse field that includes four fillies and four maidens.

Hollywood Harbor, who vanquished Koala Beach in three consecutive stakes victories, was expected to headline the field, but those plans changed after Hollywood Harbor won the one-mile WTBA Lads on Aug. 29, his third win in four career starts.

"He was pretty knocked out after the Lads," trainer Chris Stenslie said. "He was just coming around, eating good, feeling good, and he worked three-quarters really fast [1:10.20] on Sept. 13. But then he went off his feed a little bit. He didn't bounce back the way we would have liked, so we decided to pass on the Futurity, turn him out, and wait until he's 3. It was a hard decision."

His absence could be a blessing for Doris Harwood, who trains Koala Beach. But Koala Beach might not even be the best 2-year-old in Harwood's barn - she also trains Knight Raider, a brilliantly fast filly who won three stakes at the meeting and has been turned out for the winter. Also missing is Forener, who was undefeated in two starts and also is being pointed toward the 2010 season.

Though he never got by Hollywood Harbor this summer, Koala Beach has improved steadily for Harwood, who has won a record 19 races with 2-year-olds at the meeting. Gallyn Mitchell, who will finish second in the jockey standings when the meeting concludes Sunday, has the riding assignment. They drew the inside post position, an ideal spot for Koala Beach to make use of his speed.

The upset candidates include Rewritten, a talented late-running filly who's still a maiden after three starts; Haven'n a Wild Time, who came from far back to stun Knight Raider in the restricted Diane Kem Stakes on Sept. 13; Saratoga Boot, a well-bred maiden from the barn of leading trainer Tim McCanna; and Private Fortune, a speedy Jim Penney-trained filly who has yet to win in four starts.