06/29/2006 11:00PM

Stretching out looks to suit Raise the Bluff


AUBURN, Wash. - Raise the Bluff, who had previously run right up on the pace, surprised just about everybody when he defied a potent speed bias and came from far back to win last month's Pepsi-Cola Handicap for 3-year-olds at 6 1/2 furlongs. Will he employ the same tactics in Sunday's Tacoma Handicap at Emerald Downs, or will he revert to his front-running style with the stretch-out to a mile?

"What I would like to see him do is just to run his own race," said trainer Junior Coffey. "I'd like to see him run fractions that he is comfortable running. If that puts him close to a slow pace, that's fine. If the pace is faster, I would expect to see him a little farther back. As long as he is comfortable and stays out of trouble, I'll be satisfied."

Coffey sweats the small stuff as well as the large, which helps to explain why he has been able to maintain a 20-plus percent win rate throughout the 10 years that Emerald Downs has been in operation. Even Coffey has had a hard time finding something to worry about since Raise the Bluff's last race on June 4, however.

"Everything has gone well for him," said the trainer. "He had his last workout for this race on Saturday, and he worked well within himself. He came back sound, ate up, and now we're just maintaining things while we wait for the race. He should be ready."

Raise the Bluff, a son of Pine Bluff and the A. P. Indy mare Indy Go Go, will be stretching out to what appears to be a better distance after winning both of his sprint preps. Last year Raise the Bluff ran in a pair of routes, finishing a close second to Schoolin You in both the one-mile WTBA Lads and the 1 1/16-mile Gottstein Futurity.

Schoolin You on the mend

Raise the Bluff will not have to deal with last year's nemesis on Sunday, as Schoolin You has been sidelined with a severe abscess in his foot and isn't expected to resume training for another month. The same owners who raced Schoolin You - Mike and Amy Feuerborn and John and Nan Maryanski - and the same trainer who conditioned him - Jim Penney - have another colt to challenge the new divisional leader.

Livinonlovanadime, a strapping son of Devil's Bag, will attempt to fill Schoolin You's shoes in the Tacoma. He may be capable of doing just that, as he has won 2 of 3 starts, including his lone outing this year, in an allowance race, and he is improving with every race.

"We've always liked him," said Penney's daughter and assistant, Kay Cooper. "He was shinny as a 2-year-old, but he showed a lot of talent. He often worked with Schoolin You, and we didn't regard him as the second-stringer. We thought he would develop into a really nice colt, and he has. He has grown a lot since last year, and he is a very good-looking colt."

Cooper said Livinonlovanadime, who overcame trouble to win his 6 1/2-furlong prep race on June 9, blew out three furlongs in 35.80 seconds after galloping a mile at a two-minute pace on Monday.

"He is coming into this race really well, and he is going to love a mile," said Cooper. "We're looking forward to running him."

Keagan in belated appearance

The Tacoma will see the first local appearance of Keagan, who was claimed for $80,000 by trainer Bill Tollett for his wife, Donna Tollett, at Hollywood Park in mid-May. Keagan, a Washington-bred son of Basket Weave who won three stakes at Turf Paradise, was slated to make his Emerald Downs debut in last month's Pepsi-Cola, but was scratched on race day.

"The track was drying out that day, and I just didn't feel comfortable running him over that surface," explained Tollett. "I don't think missing that race set him back at all. He was plenty fit when he got here, and he is an easy horse to train. We won't have any excuses. If he gets beat, he gets beat. But I think he will run very well."

Tollett said Diamond Dollars, who had a three-race winning streak broken when she finished eighth in last Sunday's Irish Day Handicap for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, exited the race none the worse for wear.

"She got bumped pretty good at the three-eighths pole, but there wasn't any lasting damage," he said. "I really think her main problem was that she didn't want to go a mile. I think she is basically a sprinter."

Tollett also reported that he will skip Tuesday's 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap with Spanish Highway, who won the 6 1/2-furlong FSN Handicap before running fifth in the one-mile Emerald Handicap on June 18.

"He hurt his back end a little in his last race," said Tollett. "It's nothing serious, but I decided to freshen him up and bring him back in the Governor's Handicap on July 30. That race is at 6 1/2 furlongs, and I think it is the best prep for the Longacres Mile."

The Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile will be run on Aug. 20.