09/14/2005 12:00AM

Sugar Pine seems in a soft spot


AUBURN, Wash. - Sugar Pine invades from Hastings Park on Friday when she takes on six other 3-year-old fillies in the Emerald feature, a mile test for $25,000 to $30,000 claimers.

Sugar Pine, a daughter Mud Route who races for Janis Witham, finished a close second in last year's Fantasy Stakes at Hastings and she won at the optional $50,000 claiming level earlier this year in Vancouver. She has gone unplaced in three stakes attempts this year, however, and she is coming off a seventh-place finish at odds of 44-1 in the 1 1/16-mile Nanaimo Handicap on Aug. 20.

But Sugar Pine's current form is better than it might seem. She came off a layoff and ran third to Monashee in an optional $75,000 claiming race on Aug. 7, and Monashee subsequently won the Grade 3 British Columbia Oaks, defeating Emerald stars Queenledo and A Classic Life. Sugar Pine was also beaten less than six lengths in the Nanaimo, and she could be set to move forward in the third start of her form cycle. She worked over the local course last Friday, getting five furlongs in 59.80 for trainer Grant Forster, and she will be ridden by Juan Gutierrez.

Sugar Pine figures to get her stiffest opposition from recent winners America's Girl and Brite Luci. America's Girl won under Friday's conditions here on Aug. 5, then showed the way before tiring to finish fifth in the nine-furlong Washington Oaks on Aug. 20.