06/01/2005 11:00PM

Stud Poker most logical in toss-up

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AUBURN, Wash. - Handicappers will have something to sink their teeth into in Saturday's best race at Emerald Downs, a 6 1/2-furlong event for $7,500 claimers that has drawn an evenly matched field of eight.

While a case could be made for any of the entrants, none is without flaws in his form.

Stud Poker might seem the most logical win candidate, as he finished strongly to get second when racing six furlongs at the same class level in his seasonal debut on May 14. Stud Poker, a 6-year-old trained by Howard Belvoir, came back with a strong half-mile workout in 47.60 seconds on May 25 and would seem primed to improve. He won only 1 of 15 starts last year, however, and that came going 5 1/2 furlongs against modest $3,200 company.

Mr. Melcap won 8 of 16 tries last year and is coming off a five-length win over $3,500 rivals at a mile on May 13, when he was claimed by trainer Doris Harwood. However, the 6-year-old Mr. Melcap has enjoyed his best success around two turns, and he will be stepping up sharply on Saturday.

Among the most intriguing candidates is Mt. Vista, who shows only one modest workout since finishing fifth to Dave's Friend, the horse of the meeting, in the Governor's Speed Handicap at Portland Meadows on March 19. Mt. Vista, a 6-year-old who will be making his first start for trainer Hugh Carney, will benefit from the riding services of Gallyn Mitchell while donning blinkers.