05/31/2004 11:00PM

Layoff horses add to puzzle


AUBURN, Wash. - Winitall returns from a lengthy vacation to take on six other older sprinters in Thursday's Emerald Downs feature, a six-furlong affair for $10,000 claimers.

Winitall, a 9-year-old son of Regal Classic from the barn of trainer Dan Markle, was competitive with much better when last seen here in 2002. He won 3 of 6 starts at Emerald Downs that year, defeating $25,000 claimers at six furlongs, then twice beating $50,000 optional claiming company at a mile. Winitall has not raced since January of 2003, however, and his condition is difficult to gauge.

Though Markle has an excellent record with horses coming off long layoffs, Winitall's work tab includes gaps of 16 and 13 days. On the other hand, he has worked quite fast and he has gone as far as six furlongs in the morning. He is also teamed with Ben Russell, who was up for all three of his wins here in 2002.

Seventy Sixer adds another measure of uncertainty to the feature, as he has not raced since defeating $40,000 starter allowance company going 1 1/16 miles at Hollywood Park in November of 2002. That was Seventy Sixer's second win from four starts in Southern California as a 2-year-old. The 4-year-old Seventy Sixer, a California-bred son of Soft Gold, is coming off three sharp five-furlong workouts for trainer Neil Knapp.

If the returnees don't fire at first asking, Hollow Memories could prove tough to catch. Hollow Memories, a 5-year-old trained by Bill Tollett, posted a front-running win over $12,500 company here on April 18 before showing the way early and finishing sixth against $16,000 rivals last time out May 9.