07/29/2010 2:17PM

Starbird Road tries something new at Emerald

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AUBURN, Wash. – Saturday’s feature race at Emerald Downs attracted an eclectic group of seven. Among the probable starters are former six-furlong track-record holder Starbird Road; Bijou Barrister, whose seven-race winning streak ended with his last start; and Polish Dollar, a four-time winner at the meeting who is jumping five class levels for Saturday’s race.

The nine-race card begins at 2 p.m. Pacific and the feature, a $12,500 claimer for older horses at one mile, is the eighth.

Starbird Road, a 9-year-old, has never raced around two turns, though there’s no apparent reason why he shouldn’t handle the distance. The more pressing concern for trainer Larry Ross is Starbird Road’s recent form; he is winless in seven starts since returning from a two-year layoff last May.

Once the fastest horse at Emerald – he won the 2006 Chinook Pass Stakes in a then-record 1:07.40 for six furlongs – Starbird Road has lacked his customary speed in recent starts. He finished fifth, six lengths behind the winner, in a $17,500 claimer at six furlongs in his last start June 25. He’ll break from post 2 under leading rider Ricky Frazier, who has been aboard for his past three starts.

Bijou Barrister began his winning streak last October in a $2,500 claimer at Portland Meadows and capped it with an easy victory in a $10,000 claimer June 13 in his first route attempt. The streak ended July 3 when he finished second behind Gentleman Lawyer for $17,500, but Bijou Barrister has taken well to two turns and figures to be the wagering favorite. Inoel Beato has the riding assignment for trainer Pat Mullens.

Polish Dollar captured a bottom-level maiden claimer in his first start at the meeting and then worked smartly though his conditions, winning a $4,000 claimer for nonwinners of two and a $7,500 claimer for nonwinners of three before dropping to the bottom to steal at $3,500 claimer two weeks ago. Saturday’s race will be his toughest test to date, and he figures to be a long shot in a field that also includes likely pacesetter Honour the West, Amante Mio, Whitney Bridge, and Snake Attack.

Saturday’s program is a prelude to a much splashier day Sunday, Mile Preview Day, when the track’s top older horses will compete in the $50,000 Mount Rainier Handicap at nine furlongs, and the top fillies and mares will go in the $50,000 Boeing Handicap at 1 1/16 miles.