06/18/2003 11:00PM

Scratch leaves race wide open


AUBURN, Wash. - Eight fillies and mares will contest an unexpectedly wide open renewal of the one-mile King County Handicap Saturday at Emerald Downs.

With the late defection of divisional kingpin Ema Bovary, who was declared with an abscess in her foot, favoritism is up for grabs in the $50,000 King County, and many will be tempted by the 2-for-1 deal offered by the Northwest Farms entry of Strikes No Spares and Untamed Passion.

Though neither of the 4-year-old fillies has won a stakes, Strikes No Spares campaigned with distinction last year in the Midwest, winning a nine-furlong allowance race at Arlington Park and placing in one stakes at Hawthorne and two more at Arlington. Strikes No Spares, a long-winded daughter of Smart Strike, tuned up for Saturday's engagement with a second to Silver Screen Girl in a mile allowance test on May 26 and has since trained sharply, according to trainer Bob McMeans.

"She really hadn't been training that well before the mile race, but now she is finishing her works a lot better," said McMeans. "I still don't know if a mile is far enough for her, but I'm expecting her to take a step forward."

McMeans will also saddle the lightly raced Untamed Passion.

Trainer Grant Forster will also saddle two contestants in the King County, Castle Mountain and Tamarack Bay, but they will race uncoupled owing to separate ownership. Castle Mountain is coming off a second to stablemate Secondary School in the 1 1/16-mile Sun Handicap at Hastings Park, while Tamarack Bay ran third to Silver Screen Girl and Strikes No Spares on May 26.