08/02/2007 11:00PM

Penney not bashful about liking his chances


AUBURN, Wash. - Call on Carson and Wild Cycle have divided the spoils between them in the 3-year-old division at this meeting, with Call on Carson winning the six-furlong Auburn and the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola before running a troubled second to Wild Cycle in the one-mile Tacoma on July 1.

Both horses continue to thrive, according to their connections, and there is no apparent reason to suspect that they won't be ready to put forth their best efforts in Sunday's $65,000 Seattle Slew Handicap at 1o1/16 miles.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that either Call on Carson or Wild Cycle will be favored in the Seattle Slew. That distinction is expected to go to the Jim Penney-trained entry of Jamaica Bound and Get You, who finished a neck apart in a one-mile optional claiming test on July 21 while recording identical Beyer Speed Figures of 85, 5 points higher than the number Wild Cycle earned in winning the Tacoma. Penney offered nothing to discourage punters from backing his entry on Sunday.

"I would think that among the local horses, they are the ones to beat," said the trainer. "I know we were very pleased with the way both horses ran in the optional claiming race. I have always felt that Jamaica Bound is a router, and now he has won both of his two-turn races. I think he'll continue to improve with distance. The farther he goes, the better he will be."

If anything, Penney was even higher on Get You.

"You have to remember that Get You was making just his second start, and he was going a mile after only one sprint race," he said. "We felt he needed to do that in order to be ready to run in the Seattle Slew and the Emerald Derby, but we put him at a big disadvantage in terms of seasoning and conditioning. He ran a little green, and he got a little tired, but in the end he was only beaten neck. Under the circumstances, I thought he ran a super race."

Tough road to Mile defense

Penney reported that the defending Longacres Mile champion, Flamethrowintexan, exited his disappointing effort as the favorite in last Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap in good shape. Flamethrowintexan acted up in the gate, then dueled with Knight's Secret through a half-mile in 43.80 seconds before fading to finish sixth in a field of seven.

"We were very disappointed, naturally, but we do have some ideas about what went wrong," said Penney. "He charged the gate and hit his head, and it rang his bell pretty good. A knock like that can take a horse's mind off running, and that may have been what happened to Tex. Even though he ran a fast half-mile, he wasn't himself.

Penney said that jockey Ricky Frazier "said he was having to nudge him on at the three-eighths pole, and he had never had to do that before."

The botched race was the latest mishap in what has been a nightmarish campaign for Flamethrowintexan. He lost his best chance by breaking slowly when he made his seasonal debut in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap on May 26, then he missed a scheduled start in the June 17 Emerald Budweiser Handicap with an illness. Nevertheless, Penney said he hasn't given up hope of having Flamethrowintexan ready to defend his Mile crown on Aug. 19.

"The Mile is still in our minds for him," he said. "It has been a tough year for him, and we'll be up against it to have him ready, but the Mile has been his main objective all year. He has proven that he is good enough to win it if he is in top form. Now we have to see if we can get him back to his best form."

Media City still learning

The X-factor in Sunday's Seattle Slew is the Grant Forster-trained Media City, who is coming off three sharp efforts at Churchill Downs. Forster said Media City, a son of Forest Camp, was purchased privately by owners Todd and Shawn Hansen after making six starts in New York and Florida for Darley Stables. In May Forster took him to Churchill Downs, where he graduated at the maiden special weight level in June before running third after setting the pace in a nine-furlong allowance test on July 7.

"He opened up eight lengths on them in the allowance race, and it looks on paper like he ran off, but he actually set pretty reasonable fractions," said Forster. "There is no question we would like to get him to relax a little better, but that was his first route. He's a smart horse, and we believe he is a high-quality horse. I think he will relax just fine now that he knows what we expect of him."

Forster said Media City worked a strong five furlongs under Ricky Frazier here on July 25 and had no problem with the local surface. He said Media City will contest the Seattle Slew and perhaps the Emerald Derby as well, then will be turned out at his owners' new Scatter Creek Training Center near Tenino.

Surface gets upgrade

Track superintendent Wayne Damron reported that the racing surface was re-graded with global positioning system equipment on Monday and Tuesday of this week. He said more artificial fibers, which were already in the track to help it bind, were also added.

Damron said the renovation should not change to any significant degree the way the track plays.