05/20/2003 11:00PM

Sprinters tough to separate


AUBURN, Wash. - An evenly matched field of nine older sprinters, each eligible to be claimed for $25,000, will do battle at 6 1/2 furlongs in Friday's featured seventh race at Emerald Downs.

Handicappers will have a difficult time separating Victor Slew, Smokey Session, and Alferrari, who finished within a half-length of one another when they raced under the same conditions at six furlongs here on May 8. Victor Slew closed from fourth to second, beaten one length by Tickletime, and may have a very slight edge on that account. Smokey Session finished just a neck behind Victor Slew in third and was going fastest at the end, and Alferrari was another neck back in fourth after pressing the fast fractions of the wire-to-wire winner.

Once bettors decide among the three horses exiting the common race, they will need to weigh their choice's merits against those of Air Turbulence and Catpasser, both of whom are coming off sharp wins over lesser competition. Air Turbulence dusted $12,500 company by more than five lengths on May 8, and his 1:10.20 clocking for six furlongs very nearly matched the time hung up by Victor Slew, who was beaten a length in 1:09.80 on the same day. Catpasser beat bottom-level maiden claimers on May 11, but he won by nearly eight lengths in 1:09.20 for six furlongs.

American Writer also must be considered, as he is taking a significant class drop after showing the way for $40,000 claimers on May 10, when he faded to finish fourth after rocketing a half-mile in 44 seconds. Though he faces other speed on Friday, American Writer is probably quickest of the quick, and he should hang on better in his second start of the year.