08/20/2004 12:00AM

Pace figures red-hot in Distaff


AUBURN, Wash. - Cascade Corona and Hippogator square off as the 120-pound co-highweights in Sunday's $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff, which will serve as the highlight of a sterling undercard for the Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

Cascade Corona, a 4-year-old daughter of Pine Bluff from the barn of trainer Jim Penney, is coming off back-to-back scores in the one-mile King County Handicap in June and the 1 1/16-mile Boeing Handicap in July. In both of those stakes, Cascade Corona contested the pace through fast fractions, then increased her advantage in the stretch. Cascade Corona is again expected to attend the pace under regular rider Gallyn Mitchell on Sunday, if only to keep tabs on her main rival.

Hippogator also runs on the lead, for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who sent her here at midweek from the Bay Area to prepare for Sunday's engagement. Hippogator, a 4-year-old by Dixieland Band, led throughout to score her initial stakes victory in the 1 1/16-mile Miss America Handicap on the Bay Meadows turf course in April. She also led all the way last time out in the 1 1/16-mile Luther Burbank Handicap at Santa Rosa on Aug. 1, but she was disqualified and placed second for interfering with her stablemate Marwood. Hippogator will be ridden by Russell Baze, who will also ride the Hollendorfer-trained Adreamisborn in the Longacres Mile.

A hotly contested pace might open the door for Aunt Sophie, who appears to be the strongest finisher in the field of eight. Aunt Sophie, a 6-year-old daughter of Altazarr who races for trainer Charles Barth, came from far back to win the 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators Handicap here in June, then closed for third behind Cascade Corona in both the King County and the Boeing. She won a pair of route stakes in northern California last year and appears capable of pulling off a mild upset with the right pace scenario in the Distaff.

Also intriguing is Steal a Mac, who will be making her stakes debut while attempting two turns for the first time.

Steal a Mac could not be sharper, having recorded three straight sprint wins, and there is nothing in her pedigree to prevent her from getting a mile.