06/10/2010 11:00PM

Saratoga Boot drops while in sharp form

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AUBURN, Wash. - Saratoga Boot, a hard-luck runner-up in the Auburn Handicap in his last start, tops a promising field of six 3-year-olds in the feature race Sunday at Emerald Downs. A first-level optional $32,000 claimer at 6 1/2 furlongs, it's the ninth event on a 10-race program beginning at 2 p.m. Pacific.

Saratoga Boot has finished first or second in his three starts at sprint distances. He was second in a six-furlong maiden race in his debut last August. After a pair of also-ran finishes in stakes routes to end his 2-year-old campaign, Saratoga Boot returned May 9 to win a $30,000 maiden optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs, and then closed strongly to finish second, 1 3/4 lengths behind Posse Power, in the 6 1/2-furlong Auburn Handicap on May 23.

Saratoga Boot would have been closer, and perhaps won the race, if not for traffic problems near the quarter pole. He steadied a couple of times behind the tiring leaders as Posse Power surged to the lead from the outside. Saratoga Boot then rallied strongly under Inoel Beato to close the gap in the final furlong. It was a powerful performance by a horse who's improving with each start for trainer Tim McCanna.

Saratoga Boot will have a new rider Sunday. Ricky Frazier, the defending Emerald riding champion, replaces Beato, who has the call on recent maiden winner Salty Le Mousee for trainer Blaine Wright. Saratoga Boot will break from the rail, with Salty Le Mousee to his immediate right.

Wright has two horses in the race, and the other one, Demosthenes, figures to be Saratoga Boot's primary challenger. Demosthenes romped by 7 3/4 lengths in a $20,000 maiden claimer in his racing debut last September, running five furlongs in 56.40 seconds, and then finished fourth, beaten 4 1/2 lengths, in a $40,000 starter allowance at Golden Gate in November.

Demosthenes, who will be ridden by Gallyn Mitchell, has worked well for his return from a seven-month layoff, zipping six furlongs in 1:11.80 on May 30. He's brilliantly fast and could prove an elusive target for Saratoga Boot and the other four starters.

The field is rounded out by Berry Ledo, who finished third under similar conditions in his last start May 29; Blame the Jockey, victorious in two of his past three starts; and Rescue Plan, who followed a seven-length victory in a $25,000 claimer with a fourth-place finish behind Blame the Jockey in his last start.