07/05/2001 12:00AM

Someone's got to go out in front


AUBURN, Wash. - Five older sprinters, each eligible to be claimed for $25,000, will clash at 6 1/2 furlongs in Saturday's featured eighth race at Emerald Downs.

Though Saturday's headliner is shy on entries, it presents an intriguing challenge to handicappers owing to an uncertain pace scenario. None of the five contestants shows a sprint race in which he has held the lead at the first or second call, and only one shows a route in which he has held the early advantage.

Alki Run and Go Not Whoa have frequently been close to the early lead in their sprints, however, and one of those two will likely take on the pacesetting chores on Saturday. Alki Run may have his hand forced after drawing the rail post, for if apprentice Jennifer Whitaker doesn't use the 4-year-old's speed to escape traffic, she risks having him shuffled back early. Alki Run notched his only win this year going six furlongs against restricted $25,000 claimers in May and seems an acceptable fit in terms of class and distance.

Go Not Whoa figures to be favored, however, as he has several advantages over his rivals, all of whom are 4-year-olds seeking their third career victory. Go Not Whoa, 6, has won six of 27 career starts and has finished third or better 19 times. He is going in sharp form, having run second under Saturday's conditions in his last start on June 9, and he is nicely drawn in post 4, which will keep all options open for jockey Gallyn Mitchell.

Jones Reserve might be the one to look for late. A Tim McCanna-trained stretch-runner, he is dropping from the optional $40,000 level and appears to hold a class edge.