07/30/2010 12:19PM

Newcomers take on Clair Annette in Boeing

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AUBURN, Wash. – Clair Annette, easy winner of the one-mile King County Handicap in her last start, could have her hands full with a couple of new shooters in the $50,000 Boeing Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile race for fillies and mares Sunday at Emerald Downs.

Among those set to challenge Emerald’s leading older female are Pretty Katherine, a Jerry Hollendorfer-trained shipper from Southern California; and Kimmyv, a Hastings-based sprinter who hasn’t competed since early May, when she won an allowance race at Churchill Downs by more than six lengths. But the most intriguing newcomer is an undefeated local, Cliff’s Secret, who jumps rather ambitiously into stakes competition following three victories in the claiming ranks.

Clair Annette, a committed front-runner, got an uncontested lead in the King County, set fast fractions (1:09.80 for six furlongs), and pulled away to win by 5 1/2 lengths. Her task in the Boeing is trickier because she’ll have to deal with Kimmyv and Cliff’s Secret, both racing around two turns for the first time. One or both could be eager to run with Clair Annette in the early stages, softening up the favorite for a closer like Pretty Katherine, who was seventh, beaten 5 1/2 lengths, in the Grade 3 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood Park in her last start, or Gadget Queen, a troubled third behind Clair Annette in the King County.

Cliff’s Secret is the wild card. Unraced at 2 and 3, the former $50,000 Keeneland yearling debuted May 15 in a $5,000 maiden claimer, triggering all kinds of alarm bells. But the concerns were allayed when she romped by 7 1/4 lengths and snuck through without being claimed. She won her second start, a $17,500 claimer for nonwinners of two, in game fashion and then overwhelmed a stronger group of $17,500 claimers three weeks ago, running six furlongs in 1:08.60.

Cliff’s Secret was assigned an 88 Beyer Speed Figure for her most recent effort, the fastest race by a filly or mare at Emerald this season. If the speed rating is an accurate barometer, and if the Jim Penney-trained filly can handle nine furlongs, she could offer a serious threat to Clair Annette.

Gadget Queen has two Emerald stakes wins but failed to catch Clair Annette in two previous meetings at route distances. Her connections undoubtedly will be rooting for one of the newcomers to complicate the pace scenario. If not, they’ll get another shot Aug. 22 in the $75,000 Emerald Distaff on the Longacres Mile undercard.