07/08/2008 12:00AM

Maidens try to earn stakes shot

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AUBURN, Wash. - Seven 2-year-olds will shoot for a berth in the July 19 running of the $50,000 Premio Esmeralda Stakes in a five-furlong, $40,000 maiden claiming race Thursday at Emerald Downs.

Three of the seven in the fourth race, including probable favorite Silver Lake Max, are dropping out of the maiden special weight ranks. Silver Lake Max, a son of Salt Lake and multiple stakes winner Silver Screen Girl, showed speed on June 21, but faded to sixth behind Alpakapaluza in a 4 1/2-furlong sprint.

Silver Lake Max returned to work five furlongs in a solid 1:01.60 over a wet track on July 4 and could be set for a much improved effort.

King Congo ran eighth in the same race that his stablemate Silver Lake Max exits. King Congo is a son of $3 million earner Congaree and Hansel's Star, whose only other foal to race has won 4 of 22 starts for $85,000 in earnings. Though he showed little in his debut, King Congo returned to work well on July 2, getting five furlongs in 1:01.80, and is eligible to show more in his second start,

Admire James, who ran seventh to Gallant Son in a five-furlong sprint on June 29, also runs for a tag for the first time. Admire James, a half-brother to local stakes winner Sunshine Scholar, is trained by Craig Roberts.

Fast Tactics owns the best finish in the field, a second at the $20,000 maiden claiming level on June 12.