08/28/2002 12:00AM

Lady Buccaneer steps up


AUBURN, Wash. - Lady Buccaneer, a winner over $16,000 to $14,000 rivals two weeks ago, steps up to the $20,000 to $16,000 level in Friday's Emerald Downs feature, a mile test for 3-year-old fillies that has drawn a field of eight.

Lady Buccaneer stalked the pace before surging to the front to score by 1 1/2 lengths on Aug. 16, when she got a mile in 1:38.40 under Ricky Frazier. Before that win, Lady Buccaneer just failed to hang on after showing the way for $20,000 rivals at a mile. With both speed and stalking ability in her arsenal, Lady Buccaneer figures to be prominent regardless of the pace, which is difficult to predict.

Frazier again has the call on Lady Buccaneer from trainer Dan Markle.

There are no confirmed front-runners in Friday's field, but there are several who, like Lady Buccaneer, could assume the pacesetting chores. Aquaduck, Classic Jourdan, and Callie Mae have all raced on or very close to the pace in route races, and the stretching-out sprinters Perfect Plan, Amazing Sue, and Bries N by M can be expected to show speed at Friday's longer distance.

The lone confirmed closer in the field is Ruby Montani, who got up for second behind Lady Buccaneer on Aug. 16. Ruby Montani was trying to close into moderate fractions of 47 seconds for the half and 1:12.20 for six furlongs that day, and she was targeting even slower splits in her previous try Aug. 2, when she was along for third in a mile race against $25,000 claimers.

Should the pace come up significantly faster on Friday, Ruby Montani could prove irresistible in the final furlong.