06/28/2006 12:00AM

Sophie's Trophy leads successful Canadian invasion

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AUBURN, Wash. - Canadian horses seemed to win every other stakes through the first few years of racing at Emerald Downs, but they have not been nearly so prominent at more recent meetings. They weren't, that is, until Sunday's running of the Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile.

It was almost like old times, as the Hastings Park-based Sophie's Trophy prevailed by a neck over local star Chestnut Lady, and a fellow Canadian, Langara Lass, got up for third. Sophie's Trophy, a daughter of Valid Wager who races for Sid Belzberg's Budget Stable, had won both of her previous outings, going 6 1/2 furlongs at Hastings. She kept her record unblemished in the Irish Day, but she had to overcome a nearly disastrous start to do so.

Sophie's Trophy exited the gate awkwardly under rider Kevin Krigger, then bumped hard with She's All Silk, who got away even worse. She was nearly a dozen lengths behind the pacesetting Sendipity after a quarter-mile in 22.60 seconds, but she unleashed a mighty run around the second turn and down the stretch to score in 1:36.40 for the mile.

"She always breaks a little slow, but she had never broken that bad before," said Sophie's Trophy's trainer, Janet Armstrong. "I really thought she could overcome the start, though. I had told Kevin to go wide if he had to, but not to get her caught up in traffic. She has a huge stride, and I really thought she could get there if she didn't get stopped. She is a very special filly."

Sophie's Trophy was the first starter at Emerald Downs for Armstrong, who is in her fourth year of training at Hastings. She plans to be back at Emerald this Sunday, when she will saddle Outrageous Limit in the $65,000 Tacoma Handicap for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles. Outrageous Limit, who was claimed for $75,000 out of his maiden victory at Santa Anita on April 21, comes off a second in the 1 1/16-mile Jim Coleman Province Stakes at Hastings on June 4.

As for Sophie's Trophy, she will contest the 6 1/2-furlong Emerald Downs Stakes at Hastings on July 16. Local fans have not seen the last of her, however.

"She'll be back for whichever races seem to suit her," said Armstrong. "The Washington Oaks is definitely on her schedule."

The nine-furlong, $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks will be run here on Saturday, Aug. 19.

Flamethrowintexan on hold

Kay Cooper, assistant to trainer Jim Penney, said that Flamethrowintexan will skip Monday's $40,000 Independence Day Handicap at a mile. In two starts this year, the 5-year-old Flamethrowintexan ran a close second to Spanish Highway in the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap and third at 4-5 in the Budweiser Emerald Handicap at a mile on June 18.

"We're going to give him more time," said Cooper. "His schedule got a little messed up before his last race, and he didn't come into it quite the way we wanted. Rather than try to make adjustments on the fly, we're just going to go back to the drawing board."

Even without Flamethrowintexan racing on Monday, the Penney barn figures to be very busy this weekend. Cooper said she planned to enter as many as 20 horses over the five days of racing, including Livinonlovanadime in Sunday's Tacoma and Confidential Call in Monday's Independence Day. Confidential Call, who is 2 for 2 at the meeting, will be filling in for Flamethrowintexan.

"It is a step up in class for him, but we think he is ready," said Cooper. "He worked three furlongs in 36 after galloping a mile at a two-minute lick on Tuesday, and he looked really good. This race will be a good test for him."

Besides those runners, the Penney barn houses stakes runners Chestnut Lady, Sudden Departure, and the undefeated Zingara. Two others, the 3-year-olds Schoolin You and Imagunna, are on the mend. Cooper said Schoolin You, who endured a severe abscess in his foot, will be out of training for another month. Imagunna, who kicked a hotwalker and got fiberglass embedded in her leg, has resumed training after undergoing surgery to remove the fiberglass.

Juveniles prep for stakes

The initial stakes for 2-year-olds at the meet, the Angie C. for fillies and the Emerald Express for colts and geldings, are coming up on July 16 and July 22, respectively. Some of the probable contestants in those stakes were on view last weekend in a pair of maiden special weight affairs.

Saturday's 5 1/2-furlong test for fillies was won by Cascade Rose, a daughter of Giant's Causeway who was purchased for $325,000 as a weanling by Jerre Paxton. Cascade Rose, trained by Doris Harwood, won her first start by a head over Welken in 1:04.80.

Sunday's maiden special weight affair included some pricey colts and geldings, but the first two finishers came in under the radar. The Howard Belvoir-trained Immigration, who cost only $6,000, prevailed by three-quarters of a length over the Aubrey Villyard-trained Pirates Deputy, a $6,800 purchase, in 1:04.60 for 5 1/2 furlongs. Both are expected to run back in the Emerald Express.

Yet another future stakes runner emerged from Sunday's first race for $20,000 maiden 2-year-olds at five furlongs. The only filly in the race, Asuraslew, defeated eight male rivals in 58 seconds.

"She'll come back in the Angie C.," said trainer Dave Bennett. "She'll have three weeks between races, which should be perfect."