06/24/2010 11:00PM

Posse Power tops Pepsi Cola Handicap

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AUBURN, Wash. - Posse Power figures to be a short-priced favorite Sunday in the $50,000 Pepsi Cola Handicap at Emerald Downs. A one-mile test for 3-year-olds, it's the sixth event on a 10-race program beginning at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Posse Power has improved steadily since beginning his career last November at Golden Gate. He romped in a six-furlong maiden race in early January and took a first-level allowance at 1 1/16 miles in his initial start against winners three weeks later. He then went head to head with some of the best 3-year-olds on the West Coast, finishing a troubled third in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate and eighth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Posse Power returned to a sprint distance in his Emerald Downs debut May 23 and rolled to a 1 3/4-length victory in the Auburn Handicap, running 6 1/2 furlongs on a sloppy track in 1:15.

Trained by Frank Lucarelli for owner Claire Lein of Fall City, Wash., Posse Power has won 3 of 8 starts and earned $95,940. A big, powerful colt by Posse from a Pleasant Colony mare, he's bred to stay at distances well beyond a mile. He was the 9-5 second favorite in the Auburn Handicap and could be an odds-on choice Sunday in a six-horse field. Francisco Duran has the riding assignment.

Newfound Man and Koala Beach are the chief threats to the favorite. An impressive maiden winner in his first start, in May 2009, Newfound Man suffered injuries in the River Rocks Resort Stakes at Hastings in July and was sidelined for 10 months. He returned May 9 to make short work of five rivals in a first-level allowance at Emerald Downs, running six furlongs in 1:08.60. A front-runner by Newfoundland from a Temperence Hill mare, Newfound Man should have no problem with eight furlongs. Trainer Blaine Wright named Inoel Beato to ride.

Koala Beach was a double stakes winner in 2009, taking the 6 1/2-furlong Dennis Dodge Stakes by eight lengths and then the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity by a similar margin two weeks later. He has started just once in 2010, finishing fourth, four lengths behind the winner, in a second-level allowance on April 17. Jockey Ricky Frazier has the call for trainer Doris Harwood.

Others in the field are Silk Street, a recent maiden winner at Santa Anita; Michael the Man, a two-time route winner at Golden Gate; and Bogachiel, who's winless in three starts this year.