07/23/2010 10:07AM

Seattle Slew a rematch of top Emerald 3-year-olds

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The top four finishers in the Pepsi Cola Stakes, perhaps the best stakes race of the Emerald Downs meeting, face off again Sunday in the $50,000 Seattle Slew Handicap. The 1 1/16-mile race for 3-year-olds is the final prep for the Emerald Downs Derby on Aug. 15.

Koala Beach won the one-mile Pepsi Cola on June 27, edging 3-5 favorite Posse Power by a nose. Newfound Man, who stuck his head in front in the stretch, wound up third, another neck back and 2 1/4 lengths in front of Silk Street in fourth. Koala Beach won the race in 1:34.20, the fastest time for a mile ever recorded by a 3-year-old at Emerald Downs.

Koala Beach won the Gottstein Futurity and the Dennis Dodge here as a 2-year-old, and was given a brief respite away from the track this spring. Koala Beach finished worse than third for the first time when he ran fourth in an optional-claiming sprint in his 3-year-old debut on April 17.

Trainer Doris Harwood didn’t like what she saw and sent the Harbor the Gold gelding back to her farm.

“He wasn’t himself the first time out,” said Harwood, who didn’t like his coat or the way he was acting around the barn, even though blood indicated no problems and there was no injury.

“Three weeks of sunshine and green grass paid off,” she said.

He came back rejuvenated, and Harwood pointed him to the Emerald Downs Derby. She passed the 6½-furlong Auburn, which Posse Power won, and waited for the Pepsi Cola.

“I felt better going long with him,” she said.

Koala Beach has worked three times since the Pepsi Cola, capped by five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Wednesday under Ricky Frazier, who will be aboard in the Seattle Slew.

“Ricky had a big smile on his face when he got off,” Harwood said.

Posse Power also had a bit of a break this spring. Trainer Frank Lucarelli turned him out after his eight-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby on April 3, and he returned seven weeks later with his win in the Auburn, followed by his Pepsi Cola second.

Lucarelli says Sunday’s extra sixteenth of a mile will help Posse Power, and he expects the colt to run well in his rematch against Koala Beach.

“It will be a great horse race, and it will be great for the public to see these two again,” said Harwood.