08/15/2006 12:00AM

Laurel L returns off strong 2nd

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AUBURN, Wash. - An evenly matched field of eight fillies and mares, each eligible to be claimed for $12,500, will vie over six furlongs on Thursday as Emerald Downs kicks off a week of activities that will climax with Sunday's 71st running of the Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

Three of the entrants in Thursday's feature are exiting a race run under the same conditions at 5 1/2 furlongs on July 27.

Laurel L, trained by Jose Navarro, showed the way in that race before settling for second behind Pretty Josette in 1:03.80.

Pretty Josette got by Laurel L entering the stretch and opened a length advantage with a furlong to run, but Laurel L battled back and cut the margin to a half-length at the wire. Pretty Josette isn't back in Thursday's race but Laurel L is, under by Javier Ortega, and she could be favored off that effort.

Back, too, are Polish Vodka, who finished just a length behind Laurel L in third, and Run Like Hella, who was only a nose farther back in fourth after racing very wide on the turn. Run Like Hella would be a big threat to win with a better trip on Thursday.

Also dangerous are Sheneverlistens, who scored a seven-length victory against modest $4,000 maidens in her second start on Aug. 4, and Saratoga Road, who came from far back to graduate going 6 1/2 furlongs at the $12,500 level on July 2. Saratoga Road, a 3-year-old, ran fourth in $17,500 company at a mile in her first start against winners on July 30.