07/19/2007 11:00PM

Markle finds a way to get a bargain


AUBURN, Wash. - Trainer Dan Markle has had very good luck in his dealings with Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, the large breeding and racing operation based in Santa Inez, Calif. Markle hopes his luck continues when he saddles his latest purchase from Tommy Town, the 3-year-old filly Song and a Wager, for Sunday's $65,000 Washington's Lottery Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Markle's first horse from Tommy Town, the 3-year-old Call on Carson, has posted three wins, two of them in stakes, and a second from four starts here under the colors of owners Bruce Cudahy, Rob Sutherland, and Janet Schimke-Crist. Call on Carson was acquired via the claim box on Feb. 4 at Golden Gate Fields for $12,500, but that was not Markle's original intention.

"I really wanted to buy a horse from them privately, and I was thinking more along the lines of an unraced 2- or 3-year-old," Markle said. "I contacted the farm manager, Mike Allen, and I was planning to drive down there to look at some horses. Mike sent me a list of prices, though, and they were high. There were no blue-light specials on that list, I'll tell you that. I do like their horses, but I figured I would be better off going the claiming route."

Horses claimed in California cannot race out of state until 60 days after the meet at which they were claimed has concluded. That worked out fine with Call on Carson, as he was "out of jail" before the current Emerald meeting began. Markle claimed another horse from Tommy Town, the 2-year-old Carson's Melody, for $20,000 at Golden Gate on June 8, but that son of Lord Carson will still be in jail for another month or so.

"We made use of the time he is in jail by gelding him and turning him out for a while," said Markle. "I'll put him back into training next week, and we hope to have a good fall campaign with him."

Markle and his clients - the owners of Call on Carson plus Carl and Jan Fisher - didn't want to wait to race Song and a Wager, so they purchased her privately from Tommy Town about two weeks ago. Markle has spent the intervening time getting to know her, and he likes what he has seen.

"She's not very big, but she reaches out to cover a lot of ground," he said. "She doesn't have any bad habits, she is nice to work with, and she is really focused. She still has a lot to prove, but I have high hopes for her."

Song and a Wager, a winner of 2 of 6 starts for trainer Doug O'Neill in Southern California, last raced in a first-level allowance at Hollywood on June 15. She will be thoroughly tested for class in the 1 1/16-mile Washington's Lottery by Shampoo, who has dominated the local 3-year-old filly division, but the always modest Markle said he feels Song and a Wager may have a hidden advantage.

"I haven't had her long, so she will still be running off O'Neill's training," he said. "Considering the alternative, that's no bad deal."

Firetrail works well with new shoes

Another with a chance to upset Shampoo on Sunday is Firetrail, who probably ran a good deal better than it looked when she finished less than five lengths back in third in last month's sloppy Irish Day Handicap at a mile. Making just her fourth start and the second start of her form cycle, Firetrail led into the stretch before yielding to Shampoo, then just missed holding off Zaylaway for second.

"I was really pretty disappointed that she weakened in the stretch, but when I got her back to the barn I found what might have been an excuse for her," said trainer Junior Coffey. "She was apparently hitting herself, because there were cuts on the insides of her lower front legs. That could explain why she didn't finish stronger."

It is not uncommon for horses to strike their opposing legs with their hoofs when racing, and the problem is usually addressed through shoeing. Coffey said that adjustments were made to Firetrail's shoes, and she did much better when she worked six furlongs in a fast 1:12 last Sunday morning.

"She only touched herself in one place, and I can deal with that by applying a protective patch," said the trainer. "Of course it could be different when she gets tired in a race, but she passed the test we gave her last Sunday."

Coffey said there was a second, probably more important reason for asking Firetrail to work a fast six furlongs last Sunday.

"I was hoping to take a little bit of the edge off her so she would slow down and relax a little more in this race," he said. "The more she relaxes early, the better she will finish. That's the hope, anyway. You never really know for sure whether the adjustments you make will work, but you make them and hope for the best."

Early draw for Longacres Mile

In keeping with the enhanced status of the Aug. 19 running of the Grade 3 Longacres Mile, which now boasts a purse of $400,000, the draws for both the Mile and that day's $100,000 Emerald Distaff, have been moved up two days. The draws for post positions for those races will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 15.

"It's a way for us to get more attention for the Mile," said Susie Sourwine, the track's vice president of marketing. "The press will know the field on Wednesday, and they will have four days to write about it."

The field for this year's Mile could be the best ever, as the race should serve as a natural prep for the newly created $1 million Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile on Oct. 26.