04/29/2004 11:00PM

Spanish Highway tops Auburn

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AUBURN, Wash. - Sunland Park invader Spanish Highway shoulders high weight of 121 pounds in Sunday's six-furlong Auburn Stakes for 3-year-olds.

Under the Auburn's allowance conditions, Spanish Highway must carry the maximum weight because he won, in a dead heat, the one-mile Tempe Handicap on the Turf Paradise grass course on March 20. He concedes four pounds to all nine of his rivals.

Spanish Highway came back just eight days after the Tempe in Sunland's $500,000 WinStar Derby, finishing eighth, less than nine lengths behind the victorious Hi Teck Man. Spanish Highway earlier scored his maiden win at Sunland in special weight company at a mile in January. He was winless in four previous sprints in maiden claiming company.

Among Spanish Highway's intriguing challengers is Portland Meadows flash Crimson Design, who is undefeated in two starts. Crimson Design burst onto the scene by defeating the well-regarded Dig That Rhythm by more than six lengths in a 5 1/2 furlong maiden special weight in Portland on March 20. He was 12-1 that day, but when he returned versus allowance runners on April 16 he was bet down to 3-10 and won off like an overlay, by 14 lengths.

Crimson Design is trained by Jim Fergason, who set a record with 50 wins at the Portland Meadows meet.

Heading the local runners is Corvallis Dee, the winner of last year's $100,000 Gottstein Futurity. Corvallis Dee subsequently raced four times in California, with his best finish being a third in the six-furlong Golden Bear Stakes at Golden Gate.