09/13/2004 11:00PM

Maiden win within grasp of 'Aarons'


AUBURN, Wash. - Two-year-olds will lead the way into the final week of the 2004 meeting at Emerald Downs, as the first four races on Thursday's nine-race program are for the juvenile set.

The 2-year-old races include the best contest on the card, a six-furlong affair for maiden special weight company that has drawn a field of seven.

Aarons Last Dance seems likely to be favored off his last sprint effort, a half-length loss to Sky Harbor in a six-furlong maiden special weight test that was run in 1:10.60 on Aug. 8. Aarons Last Dance, a son of Rhythm from the barn of trainer Debbie Van Horn, came back to finish seventh in the one-mile WTBA Lads Stakes on Aug. 29, when he contested the pace through six furlongs in 1:12.60. Regular rider Scott Saito will retain the mount for Thursday's return to the maiden ranks.

Aarons Last Dance may get his sternest challenge from Rusty Rolls, who finished a distant second to Fit and Tough when debuting in a 5 1/2-furlong event for $32,000 maidens here on Sept. 3. Rusty Rolls, a son of Tropic Lightning trained by Claude Gibson, was beaten more than nine lengths by Fit and Tough, whose 1:02.60 clocking was the fastest ever recorded at Emerald by a 2-year-old, but he was more than seven lengths clear of the third finisher.

The field includes the Ron Crockett-owned entry of Castello d'Oro, who is trained by Terry Gillihan, and Don'twritemeoff, who is trained by Pat Mullens.