08/05/2003 11:00PM

'Old Duke' just needs to behave


AUBURN, Wash. - Old Duke Puffer is the one to beat in Friday's best race at Emerald Downs, a one-mile test for older $10,000 to $8,000 claimers that has lured a field of seven.

Old Duke Puffer, a 6-year-old Son of Briartic gelding from the barn of Sharon Ross, comes off a second to the very sharp Misconception at Friday's conditions on July 26, and he probably should have won that race. After closing to within a half-length of Misconception in the upper stretch, Old Duke Puffer lost ground while drifting out alarmingly in the final furlong to finish in the middle of the track. Assuming he does not repeat those antics, he should prove hard to resist under Gary Baze at 119 pounds.

Looking to make amends on Friday is Handsome Will Do, who finished far up the track as the 2-1 favorite at Friday's conditions on July 11. Handsome Will Do led throughout to defeat $8,000 claimers at a mile in his previous outing, but he failed to make the lead in his most recent try and has a history of poor finishes when asked to come from even slightly off the pace. He has only one apparent pace rival on Friday, the much less experienced Uncertain Wonder, and could be gone if he can shake that foe in the early going.

Also of interest is Caller Pete, who drops from the $16,000 level after a pair of even sprint preps. The 7-year-old Caller Pete has won four of his 11 tries at a mile and figures to improve when stretched out to his favorite distance.