07/26/2004 11:00PM

Taz gives card a change of pace

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SANTA ROSA, Calif. - One of the interesting aspects of northern California fair racing is that a mundane race card can be made all the more interesting by the addition of non-Thoroughbred races.

Thursday's Sonoma County Fair card is a perfect example.

The co-features in the card are a $20,000 claimer at one mile for 3-year-old fillies, which has drawn five entrants, and a one-mile straight maiden race, which has drawn six. What helps make Thursday's card more interesting, though, is a mule race featuring Taz, longtime rival of world champion mule Black Ruby, and Taz's twin sister, Evelyn Nelson.

The co-features, themselves, offer interesting handicap exercises despite the small fields. Corporal Greiner should be tough in the claiming race. She has good speed and has run well when entered in the claiming ranks. She has been meeting better and faded badly over her home course in Pleasanton last time in an allowance race, which may explain the return to the claiming ranks. Corporal Greiner also has a pair of solid works since that race and could bounce back against easier rivals.

Corporal Greiner will be pressed early by Exorbitant, who has opened early in her two starts in northern California and is stepping up today, and pressed late by Comparison and Affirmed Manner. Comparison won a $32,000 starter allowance two races back, when he edged the fading Corporal Greiner in the Pleasanton allowance race. Affirmed Manner beat easier opponents with a long, sustained rally, also at Pleasanton. Dyna Wild, who trailed Comparison and Corporal Greiner at Pleasanton, rounds out the field.

All Talk, second in both starts this year, will stretch out in the maiden race. A $120,000 purchase as a 2-year-old, All Talk is the lone 4-year-old in the field.

All Talk's breeding and his closing style in his two sprints indicate he should like the distance, but he'll be running against some solid rivals.

Copper Mist is 0 for 13, but has six seconds and three thirds. He has decent speed and is a proven around two turns. Deputy Gold showed improvement in his second try at the distance in his last start. On the Reservation also stretches out after breaking poorly in his last race, when he trailed All Talk.

In the mule race, Taz appears the one to beat. Taz and Evelyn Nelson, who are both 10, were the only mules to beat Black Ruby during her amazing run, and they finished second and third behind Sarah Nelson last Sunday in the Millennium Mule Challenge at Solano.

Despite his reputation as being Alydar to Black Ruby's Affirmed, Taz has earned $132,162 and is still one of the top mules competing at the highest levels.