08/28/2003 11:00PM

Sala De Oro clearly filly to beat

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AUBURN, Wash. - Sala De Oro will head a field of seven 2-year-old fillies in Sunday's $70,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at Emerald Downs.

The one-mile Shinpoch, which honors the former racing commission chair who guided Washington's search for a new track after the closure of Longacres, is Emerald's top offering for 2-year-old fillies.

Sala De Oro earned top billing with a sharp 2 1/2-length victory over three of the same fillies she faces again Sunday in a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming race on Aug. 16. It was the second win from four starts for Sala De Oro. She also ran second to Melba Jewel, who is not entered in the Shinpoch, in the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes on July 12. Trainer Grant Forster has named Ben Russell to ride Sala De Oro at 117 pounds.

Finishing behind Sala De Oro in the optional claiming prep were Sariano (second), Americas Pride (fourth), and Aunt Tizzy (fifth), all of whom are back to take on the probable favorite again.

Sariano may pose the most potent threat off her improving form. Sariano, a late-running daughter of Rubiano, won her 5 1/2-furlong debut despite breaking very slowly on June 21, then again broke behind her field when a lackluster eighth in the Angie C. She seemed to master her gate woes last time out, however, and came on strongly to finish a clear second.

Sariano will be trying to extend a streak for owner Dr. Rodney Orr and trainer Steve Bullock, who teamed to win the Shinpoch with Ashbecca in 2001 and with Calldara last year.