06/27/2007 11:00PM

Salt Grinder takes first shot for new barn

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AUBURN, Wash. - Salt Grinder is very familiar to Emerald Downs fans, having won 8 of 23 local starts, including a pair of stakes, over seven campaigns. There will be something different when he comes out for Saturday's six-furlong $50,000 optional claiming feature, however.

For the first time in his career, Salt Grinder will not be carrying the black and white silks of Homestretch Farms, the nom de course for trainer Jim Penney and family. That is because he was claimed out of his most recent outing, a 7 1/4-length romp over $32,000 claimers on May 19, by Rick Beal and Gary Chavers. He will make his first start for trainer Sharon Ross, who has named Debbie Hoonan-Trujillo to ride.

One thing won't change: Salt Grinder, as usual, will be the horse to beat. The extremely quick Salt Grinder, who has been favored in six of his last 10 starts, seems certain to be the public's choice once more after winning his seasonal debut with six furlongs in 1:07.60, just .20 off Starbird Road's track record.

Salt Grinder will have seven opponents, including Bernie White Shoes, claimed for $40,000 by trainer Grant Forster out of his last start, which came at Keeneland on April 25. Bernie White Shoes, a 4-year-old son of Hennessy, did not handle Keeneland's artificial surface, but he is 2 for 8 on dirt and has trained brilliantly since arriving here earlier this month.

Saturday's card will have a special 5 p.m. first post.