07/31/2008 11:00PM

Sprinting to be the focus for Margo's Gift

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AUBURN, Wash. - Most fans expected to see a season-long rivalry in Emerald Downs's 3-year-old colt and gelding division this year, but they assumed it would be between last year's juvenile rivals Gallon and Margo's Gift. As it turns out, it's between Gallon and the surprising Fear No Evil.

Margo's Gift contested the first three stakes for 3-year-olds at the meeting and ran very well in two sprints. He was a close third behind Fear No Evil and Gallon in the six- furlong Auburn Stakes, then won the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap in a three-way photo over Easy Going Cecil and Gallon.

Margo's Gift came back to be a well-beaten third behind Gallon and Fear No Evil in the one-mile Tacoma Handicap, however, and he was subsequently beaten 4 1/2 lengths by Fear No Evil in a one-mile allowance on July 19.

In the wake of that defeat, trainer Doris Harwood decided to go in another direction with Margo's Gift.

"I turned him out after the allowance race, but I'll bring him back for one last route in the restricted stakes on Washington Cup Day," said Harwood, referring to the one- mile Trooper Seven Stakes for Washington-breds on Sept. 14. "After that, he is going to be a sprinter. I want to let him do what he does best."

Harwood didn't nominate Margo's Gift to Sunday's $60,000 Seattle Slew Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, which left Gallon and Fear No Evil as the co-highweights at 119 pounds apiece. The identical imposts are appropriate, because Gallon and Fear No Evil are almost impossible to separate after trading close decisions in the Auburn and Tacoma. There is one difference. Fear No Evil has had a race since the June 29 Tacoma and Gallon has not.

"I actually prefer to run my stakes horses about once a month, but that mile allowance race came up with a short field and I couldn't resist," said Frank Lucarelli, who trains Fear No Evil for owners Chris and Dianna Randall. "I was impressed by the way he ran, and the effort didn't seem to set him back at all. He is doing fabulous."

Lucarelli admits that he wasn't always impressed with Fear No Evil, a Kentucky-bred son of Trust N Luck who was purchased for $15,000 as a yearling. Even after Fear No Evil won the Auburn, the trainer questioned his quality.

"I think I entered him twice for a $40,000 tag, but the races didn't fill," said Lucarelli. "He has run a lot better than I expected, both in the Tacoma and in the allowance race. He proved me wrong, and I'm happy that he did."

Gallon was also eligible for the wide-open allowance race that Fear No Evil won on July 19, but trainer Jim Penney elected to withhold him.

"We just felt he would benefit more from getting a little rest," said assistant trainer Kay Cooper. "I'm not sure if running in that race will help Fear No Evil, but I'm pretty sure that skipping it helped Gallon. He packed on a few pounds, which he needed to do, and he will be coming into this race fresh. We're really very pleased with how he is doing."

Despite her satisfaction with Gallon's condition, Cooper is anticipating another tough race.

"Fear No Evil is a very nice horse, and it will be tough to beat him," she said. "Gallon was all out to get to him last time, and he barely did. I don't see any reason to expect this race to be different. These two horses are very evenly matched."

Ross high on Anotation

The wild card in the Seattle Slew field is Anotation, who will be making his stakes debut after posting back-to-back wins over $30,000 maidens at 6 1/2 furlongs and allowance rivals at a mile. Those were just the second and third starts for Anotation, a son of Memo and Anazeha who is trained by Sharon Ross for owners Leonard and Randy Weber.

Ross recalled that Anazeha was the first horse that she and her husband, Larry Ross, imported from Chile for owner Rick Beal. The Rosses and Beal have subsequently imported multiple stakes winner Ema Bovary, multiple winner Zona de Impacto, and the current 3-year-old Creme.

"Anazeha was a nice sprinter for Rick, and after she retired the people we bought her from recommended that we breed her to Memo," said Ross. "By the time Anotation was ready to go into training, though, Rick was cutting back on his stock. We contacted the Webers, who had been partners on Chum Salmon way back when, and we told them this horse was for sale. They were game, and I'm really happy that he seems to be working out for them."

Ross said she loved Anotation from the very beginning, though she didn't get him started until this year.

"He was in training last year, but his knees were open and we didn't get to run him," she said. "Everyone who got on him just raved about him, though. He is a really smart colt, and very classy. He did everything right from the beginning, and he was always cool as a cucumber. I've had horses who could run a lot, but were high maintenance. I prefer the ones with class, and this one has class."

* John Orecchio of Arlington Heights, Ill., won last weekend's Ultimate Qualifying Tournament at Emerald, earning a top prize of $20,000 and an expense paid trip to the 2009 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Nine of the 400 contestants qualified for the national tournament, but only two were from the Puget Sound area.