07/16/2003 12:00AM

Market Master back in top form

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AUBURN, Wash. - Market Master is the one to beat on Friday at Emerald Downs when the Harley H. Hoppe and Associates' Marathon Series gets under way with the nine-furlong leg of the three-race competition.

Market Master starred in the 2000 Marathon Series, winning the nine and 10 furlong legs before being injured in the concluding leg, at 1 1/2 miles. He missed all of 2001 and raced only twice last year, winning once, but he has returned this season at 9 to win all three of his outings in impressive style.

Market Master, a son of Pirate's Bounty, is coming off a front-running win over $3,200 starter allowance company on July 3, getting a mile in a swift 1:36. Ben Russell has the call from trainer Tim McCanna at 116 pounds.

Though he appears to be the speed of Friday's field, Market Master will have to break from post 10 in the 11-horse gate. He will also be stepping up sharply to race under $10,000 starter allowance conditions.

Star of Rehaan may be the one to fear most, as he is coming off a sharp score in a $10,000 starter allowance on July 4, when he ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.40. Matlock finished second that day after having won his two prior outings, at a mile and 1 1/16 miles, and also is a threat on Friday.

Not to be ignored is Rattlesnake Ridge, who blossomed when stretched out to marathon distances last spring at Portland Meadows. Rattlesnake Ridge finished second or third in the first three legs of Portland's Oakhust Farms Marathon Series, then won the two-mile finale by 10 lengths.