06/12/2009 12:00AM

Penney has two threats


AUBURN, Wash. - Seven promising 3-year-olds were entered in Saturday's feature race at Emerald Downs, a $30,000 claimer at one mile. It's the ninth race on a 10-race program that begins at 2 p.m.

Trainer Jim Penney has two of the leading contenders, one a speed horse and the other a closer. Both horses have been preparing to go two turns, assistant trainer Kay Cooper said Thursday, and one or both could be pointed to stakes events this summer if they pass the test Saturday.

Alpakapaluza is the speedy one. The leader after a quarter-mile in 5 of his first 6 starts, he most recently finished third in a $25,000 claiming race at six furlongs. A Washington-bred son of Cahill Road, he has one career victory, in a 4 1/2-furlong maiden race last June, and has finished third three times, most recently in the six-furlong Auburn Stakes in late April. Breaking from the rail with jockey Seth Martinez, Alpakapaluza figures to take command early in Saturday's race.

Tucannon is the closing half of the Penney pair. Never worse than second in four career starts, he began his 3-year-old campaign with a runner-up finish for $25,000, running past Alpakapaluza in the final furlong. Tucannon, a Washington-bred by Tribunal out of the Conquistador Cielo mare Lite Nite, should have no trouble getting a mile. Ricky Frazier, seeking his third Emerald Downs riding title in four seasons, has the call.

With a speed horse setting things up for a closer, the other contenders may look to get an early jump on Tucannon. Eighty Eight, a Washington-bred son of He's Tops, has demonstrated tactical speed in several of his races and could thrive in his first start around two turns. Trained by Vann Belvoir, Eighty Eight was a distant sixth in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi-Cola Handicap in his most recent start, but he was a sharp third against first-level allowance foes in the start before that. Gallyn Mitchell has the riding assignment.

The rest of the field includes Last Time Around, who ran third in two mile races at Golden Gate Fields this spring; Three Agree, who will face winners for the first time Saturday; Connor's Buddy, who is 2 for 2 at the distance but is stepping up steeply in class; and Who's Your Next Ex, the only stakes winner in the field. He rallied to win the $19,000 Dennis Dodge Memorial at Portland Meadows last fall.