09/18/2003 11:00PM

Sabertooth vs. Alfurune tops Cup Day card


AUBURN, Wash. - Sabertooth and Alfurune match up in Sunday's inaugural running of the $50,000 Washington Cup Classic at 1 1/16 miles, which heads seven stakes for Washington-breds on the first Washington Cup Day program.

Sabertooth won last year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile and capped a stellar year with a 5 1/2-length score in the 1 1/16-mile Washington Championship, the precursor to the Washington Cup Classic. In those two races Sabertooth dashed to a daylight lead with a fast first quarter, took a breather through a moderate second quarter, and then defied his pursuers to catch him.

Sabertooth, 5, has not been able to duplicate his winning formula in five starts this season. He has been unable to open more than a half-length lead after a quarter-mile. He has not gotten an early breather. And as a consequence he has tired in the stretch in each of his starts, including an eighth-place finish at 33-1 in this year's Longacres Mile.

In an attempt to reverse Sabertooth's fortunes, trainer Jim Penney has named Gallyn Mitchell to ride on Sunday. Mitchell, who has not ridden Sabertooth since early last season, can be expected to call on all of Sabertooth's speed in an attempt to regain his past good form.

Alfurune is racing in much sharper form, having won the 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap and then finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup. He was fourth to Sky Jack in this year's Longacres Mile. He has no early speed, however, and will depend on others to put pressure on Sabertooth early.

At least two others in the field of eight, Colony Lane and Long on Pride, have good early foot and customarily run on or close to the pace. It remains to be seen whether either has enough gas to match strides with Sabertooth.

The richest race for females on the Washington Cup card is the $50,000 Belle Roberts Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, which drew a field of seven older fillies and mares.

The most likely winners are Silver Screen Girl, the front-running winner of the 1 1/16-mile Boeing Handicap in July, and Infernal McGoon, who scored an authoritative two-length win in the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff on Aug. 24. Silver Screen Girl finished a well-beaten eighth in the Distaff, but was later found to be sick. Trainer Doris Harwood expects a more representative effort from Silver Screen Girl on Sunday.

* Victor Slew heads a field of seven of the fastest statebreds on the grounds in the six-furlong, $40,000 Chinook Pass Sprint, the third race on the Washington Cup program.

Victor Slew, who has not finished worse than second in any of his last seven outings, is coming off a sharp win in the five-furlong Washington Owners' Handicap on Aug. 24, when he equaled the track record with a clocking of 55.40 seconds.

Among Victor Slew's main challengers is Blue Tejano, who owns the track record for six furlongs with a clocking of 1:07.60 last year.

* Knightsbridge Road heads a field of 10 in the one-mile, $40,000 Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-olds, while Ruby Dawn is the one to beat in the one mile, $40,000 John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, which has also attracted a field of 10.

* Starbird Road will take on 11 rivals in the six-furlong, $40,000 Captain Condo Stakes for 2-year-olds, and Melba Jewel tops a field of 12 in the $40,000 Diane Kem Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs.