04/20/2005 11:00PM

Mr. Melcap has big edge in experience

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AUBURN, Wash. - An intriguing band of eight older sprinters, each eligible to be claimed for $15,000, will vie over six furlongs in Saturday's best race at Emerald Downs.

Four of the eight runners are eligible for a straight nonwinners-of-two, with only a maiden win to their credit, and two more have won twice, but Scr Top Player has won three races and Mr. Melcap has won 12.

Mr. Melcap benefits from a change in the conditions for restricted races, made this year by director of racing Paul Ryneveld. In the past, Saturday's headliner would have been restricted to runners who have not won two races, with maiden wins excluded. The conditions of the feature are now "for 4-year-olds and upward which have never won $5,500 twice." Mr. Melcap is eligible because only one of his 12 wins was worth more than $5,500.

Mr. Melcap has a considerable edge in experience over his rivals and should put his advantage to good use. A 6-year-old trained by Doris Harwood, Mr. Melcap is coming off a 2004 campaign in which he won 8 of his 16 starts, including four at Emerald Downs. Three of those wins came at route distances; all eight came while racing for a lower tag than he will wear Saturday, but at the expense of unrestricted company. Though he never won for a claiming price higher than $5,000 at last year's meet, he probably isn't even taking a step up in class Saturday.

Mr. Melcap figures to be tested by Scr Top Player, who won his only start here last year. It came against $7,500 rivals a year ago, on April 24. Scr Top Player led throughout to score by almost two lengths after going 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:02.40, then went directly to the sidelines. He has trained extremely well for trainer Dan Markle, however, and could be ready for a big effort after drilling a half-mile in 45.80 seconds Monday.

Also dangerous is Benny G, a 4-year-old trained by Larry Wolf. Benny G won his 3-year-old debut last season, defeating allowance rivals by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:04.60. He was winless in four subsequent starts at 3, but he ran second against $32,000 starter allowance company and $12,500 claimers. Benny G will be ridden by Ricky Frazier, who was Mr. Melcap's regular rider last year.