09/29/2005 11:00PM

Sabertooth faces threats early, late

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AUBURN, Wash. - Sabertooth and Mr. Makah will hook up at 1 1/16 miles in the $50,000 Muckleshoot Tribal Classic, the highlight of Sunday's third annual Washington Cup Day program. The Classic is one of seven stakes on the day, all for Washington-breds.

Also entered in the field of five are The Great Face, Skyrider, and Best Game in Town.

Sabertooth seems likely to be favored off his stellar record of accomplishments, including a victory in the 2002 Longacres Mile and a world-record performance in this season's FSN Handicap, in which he led throughout 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:13. The front-running Sabertooth's task became a great deal more difficult when The Great Face became a last-minute entry in the Classic, however.

The Great Face, a speedy 3-year-old who races for the track's president, Ron Crockett, was nominated for Sunday's Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-olds at a mile and the Chinook Pass Sprint at six furlongs as well as the Classic, but his connections opted to go in the Classic when the race seemed poised to close with only four horses.

"The Classic had fewer horses, and also fewer horses who were likely to go for the lead," explained Lance Williams, who serves as Crockett's stable manager. "We also thought The Great Face's presence would make it a more intriguing race. We wanted the Classic to be as exciting as possible."

The Great Face, a son of Cahill Road who is trained by Tom Wenzel, has been on the lead in all five of his career starts, three of which he has won. He is coming off back-to-back scores against allowance company. On Aug. 7, he got six furlongs in 1:08.40, and on Sept. 10, he covered a mile in 1:37.40.

Though The Great Face clearly has enough speed to challenge Sabertooth for the early advantage, Williams hinted that it might be a mistake to assume that he will do so.

"If we went head and head with Sabertooth, it would set the race up pretty nicely for Mr. Makah, wouldn't it?" he asked. "We want to win the race, so that might not be the thing to do."

Mr. Makah, a stretch-runner trained by Bonnie Jenne, came from 13 lengths back to defeat Sabertooth in the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap on June 19. He is coming off a seventh-place finish in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile on Aug. 21, but he was beaten only 4 1/4 lengths that day, and he worked five furlongs last week in a sizzling 56.60.