06/10/2008 12:00AM

Midnight Joker might have pace edge

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ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Questions abound regarding the protagonists in Thursday's feature, a six-furlong allowance for Ontario-sired fillies and mares.

Where's the speed? There's not much of it in the seven-horse field, and Midnight Joker could take advantage of that by trying to lead all the way under apprentice Matt Moore.

Midnight Joker's lone win in six starts last year came in a slow six-furlong maiden special for Ontario-sired stock. She ran third in a $40,000 conditioned claimer in her first start this year, and than ran second in allowance company behind heavily favored Miss Juicey.

Most recently, in a 5 1/2-furlong Ontario-sired allowance on Mayo23, Midnight Joker chased the front-runner for about a half-mile before fading to fourth. She has worked a slow three furlongs on the grass since that race.

There are questions among the other top contenders.

Will Sassy Star bounce off her big comeback race? Sassy Star had been idle for a year when she ran in an Ontario-sired allowance sprint on the grass May 31. Sent off at 16-1, she rallied stoutly down the center of the course to lose by a nose to Dancing Doris.

On Thursday, Sassy Star returns to action on short rest while switching to the Polytrack, and figures to regress. A tepid pace would likely hinder her chances, and jockey Robert Landry might have to move her sooner than usual.

Will Wicked Emer, who often looks teasingly good, finally find the mark? Wicked Emer's maiden victory came back in October 2006. She earned her keep last year, earning $49,556, but was a beaten favorite on two occasions.

Wicked Emer finished third behind Midnight Joker in her 2008 debut, and she beat that rival after rallying wide for second in her latest venture. Steve Bahen, who rode her for her maiden victory, has the mount on Thursday.

In race 3, Starflight Lad, the most durable runner in this race for $12,500 claimers at seven furlongs, has evolved into Woodbine's best-known career maiden.

Starflight Lad, a stretch-running 5-year-old, has finished second or third in 15 of 31 starts. He lacked room in the stretch before closing strongly for second in another seven-furlong sprint for $12,500 maidens when he came off a layoff May 14, and was recently fourth for $16,000, after lagging 15 lengths off the early lead.o