09/26/2006 12:00AM

Lucarelli and Frazier leap to the top of the standings


AUBURN, Wash. - Nobody can accuse trainer Frank Lucarelli and rider Ricky Frazier of lacking a killer instinct.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Lucarelli poked his nose in front in the race for leading trainer, and Frazier entered last week's racing in third place in the jockey standings, four wins behind the defending champ, Kevin Krigger. Fans were looking forward to spirited races down to the wire in both categories, but Lucarelli and Frazier doused the suspense in short order.

Lucarelli saddled seven winners last week to take a 49-37 lead over Howard Belvoir in the race for leading trainer. Not to be outdone, Frazier rode 13 winners over the same four days of racing and now leads Krigger by an 82-74 margin. With just four days of racing remaining in the 90-day meet, both races appear to be all but over.

The success of Lucarelli and Frazier are not unrelated. Lucarelli was languishing deep in the trainer standings through June, when he had 11 wins from 111 starts, but in July he began giving the lion's share of his calls to Frazier and the newly arrived Mick Ruis, who has been nearly as hot. Since July 1, Lucarelli has saddled 38 winners from 168 starters for a 22.6 percent success rate. Frazier has booted home 16 of those winners from 55 Lucarelli-trained mounts for an even higher 29 percent strike rate.

While Lucarelli acknowledges the role that Frazier and Ruis, who is 10 for 44 (22 percent) when riding Lucarelli trainees, have had in his success through the second half of the meeting, he said there are other factors involved as well.

"Ricky and Mick started riding for me at about the same time I started dropping all of my horses," he said. "It wouldn't be fair to the guys who were riding for me earlier in the meeting not to point that out. A lot of the horses that those guys were riding on the $25,000 level were dropped to $7,500 by the time Ricky and Mick started riding them. That makes a difference."

Relay race rivets thousands

An estimated 2,000 to 3,000 fans remained at Emerald Downs after the races on Saturday to watch what was billed as the first annual Muckleshoot Paint and Feathers Pony Express three-horse relay race, and it seemed that a good time was had by all.

A $10,000 purse lured eight teams of three horses and a bareback rider from across the West, most representing an Indian tribe. Each horse ran a mile, after which the rider would dismount and mount a fresh horse in the blink of an eye. After three horses and three miles, a team from Omak, Wash., called Tomco Express prevailed over a team called Little Badger Boys after a spirited duel through the last lap. William Smith rode for the winning team, which was introduced as the defending world champion in the event.

The third finisher was none other than Team Lavanway, which local trainer Dayson Lavanway put together on short notice. Lavanway, a member of the Navajo tribe who is married to a member of the Yakima tribe, tabbed three members of his stable and rider Jose Zunino to compete for his team. Though all were new to relay racing, they did remarkably well.

"We made a few mistakes, but Jose did a great job for us, and we all had a lot of fun," said Lavanway. "It's great to be able to do something that brings the fun back into racing, which has become such a serious thing. I hope they do it again next year. I'll be better prepared, and I'll have a better idea of what is required. I think we can make a real run at winning it."

The horses who competed for Lavanway were the 3-year-old maidens Callhimsir and Tropical Tom, plus the unstarted white Thoroughbred Arctic North.

Northwesterners shop in Kentucky

Northwest horsemen were again active at the marathon Keeneland September yearling sale, which concluded on Monday after 3,556 yearlings had been sold in 14 sessions.

The most noteworthy local purchases were made by Washington residents Al and Sandee Kirkwood, who purchased an Elusive Quality colt for $135,000, an Aldebaran colt for $120,000, and a Cherokee Run colt for $80,000. Washington residents Todd and Shawn Hansen also went to $80,000, for a Gulch colt.

Ron Crockett purchased at least three yearlings, including a Stormin Fever filly for $42,000 and a Grindstone filly for $37,000, and owner Chris Randall bought at least five yearlings, including a Trust N Luck colt for $15,000. Bloodstock agent Dana Halvorson purchased horses for various Northwest clients, including an Include colt for $25,000.

Other Northwest horsemen who signed slips for yearlings include trainers Tim McCanna, Carlos Moreno and Dave Forster and owners Harley Hoppe and Ole Nielsen.

Flamethrowintexan takes it easy

Assistant trainer Kay Cooper, the daughter of trainer Jim Penney, had warned that the Longacres Mile winner Flamethrowintexan wouldn't be asked to do much in his final work for Saturday's Grade 2, $500,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles, and he didn't. With regular rider Ricky Frazier up, Flamethrowintexan worked three furlongs at Hawthorne on Monday in a leisurely 40.20 seconds

In his last work at Emerald on Sept. 16, Flamethrowintexan sizzled six furlongs in 1:08.60. That was the fastest six-furlong drill ever recorded at Emerald.