05/27/2005 11:00PM

Marsh Creek fills hole for Baze


AUBURN, Wash. - It was just two weeks ago that Slewicide Cruise injured a suspensory ligament in a workout and trainer Robbie Baze lost the best horse he has ever saddled, at least for this season.

The racing gods giveth as well as taketh away, however, and Baze recently received an unexpected boost in the form of Marsh Creek, who will contest Monday's $50,000 Pepsi-Cola Handicap for 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs.

"I had trained a couple of horses for the same owners at Portland Meadows, and they talked about sending me a nice 3-year-old, but I wasn't counting on it," said Baze. "Then out of the blue I got a call from them, and they said the horse was on his way."

Marsh Creek, a homebred son of Tossofthecoin who races for Tom and Dan Eplin of San Mateo, Calif., has the credentials to be Baze's next stable star. He won his debut against maiden special weight company at Golden Gate in January, then came back on Feb. 11 to run a troubled second to High Standards in a six-furlong allowance test at Bay Meadows. High Standards returned to win back-to-back sprint stakes at Santa Anita, the Grade 3 Baldwin and the $95,000 San Pedro, flattering Marsh Creek's effort.

"He looks like a nice horse on paper, and he is pretty impressive in person, too," said Baze of Marsh Creek. "I took him to the track for the first time on Wednesday, and he acted like a complete professional. He really has a good head on his shoulders, and that's half the battle with young horses. I'm really excited about running him."

The local 3-year-old division has changed as rapidly as Baze's prospects. In addition to Marsh Creek, the Pepsi-Cola has drawn two other accomplished shippers from California. The Mike Puhich-trained Pure as Gold, who graduated against $100,000 maiden claimers at Santa Anita, and the Bill Morey-trained Funny Flyer, a winner of 2 of 3 starts, all in northern California, were both expected run.

"The shippers add a lot of interest to this division," said Baze. "I was thinking the local 3-year-olds were kind of uninspiring, but now it is a different story. This should be a really good race."

Local ready to pop in Pepsi-Cola

The shippers, and even Auburn Stakes winner Beau Maggie, may have to take a back seat in the Pepsi-Cola wagering to impressive local allowance winner Norm's Nephew.

Norm's Nephew, a son of Jazzing Around trained by Jimmy Orr, ran second last year in his lone start at 2, then launched his 3-year-old campaign with a 2 1/4-length victory over maiden special weight company before posting a 6 3/4-length win over allowance rivals on May 7, when he went six furlongs in 1:09.40. That clocking was good for an 87 Beyer Speed Figure, which ranks as the top last-race Beyer in the Pepsi-Cola field.

"He has done everything right so far," said Orr. "It's really not a surprise, because even last year we couldn't find anything that could stay with him in his works. He has always been very professional."

Norm's Nephew got his name because he is related to one of Orr's favorite horses, the hard-hitting claimer Norm's Destiny.

"Norm's Destiny was cut out to be a good horse, too, but he was compromised by injuries," said Orr. "He always tried hard, though, and he was a lot of fun to be around. This horse is the same way. He drinks beer and eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, just like Norm's Destiny, and he looks just like him."

Orr said an article about Norm's Destiny played a key role in Norm's Nephew landing in his barn. Trainer Margo Lloyd saw the article and told Orr that breeder Barbara Nelson was trying to sell a colt from the same family. Orr and Nelson, who races under the banner of Gunshy Manor, eventually agreed to go partners on the colt, and Norm's Nephew now races for that partnership. Now the owners are anxious to find out if they have a stakes horse on their hands.

"This race will be his big test," said Orr. "I'm pretty sure he'll fit with these horses, though. Anything can happen in a horse race, of course, but I feel pretty good about his chances."

Table-turning time?

Those who like Norm's Nephew might want to take a close look at Another Bob as well. Another Bob, a California-bred son of Memo, finished second in Norm's Nephew's maiden win, then came back to graduate with a 6 3/4-length win over maiden special weight company on May 14. He got 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.40 under rider Juan Gutierrez.

"He has a couple of lengths to make up on Norm's Nephew, but I think he can do it," said trainer Rick Terry. "He was just off the truck from New Mexico when he ran second to Norm's Nephew, and he has come a long way since then. Juan says he is a better horse every time he gets on him."

Like Marsh Creek for Robbie Baze, Another Bob's emergence serves as a sort of consolation prize for Terry. The trainer reported that his good 3-year-old filly Nu Ray's Arabella has been retired with a chipped knee and will be bred.