08/14/2001 11:00PM

Tip your hat to Aquaduck

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AUBURN, Wash. - Two-year-olds will be featured at Emerald Downs on Thursday, with five of the nine races for juveniles.

The rash of 2-year-old races is indicative of the growing role that juveniles have assumed at Emerald, which has now carded 81 races for 2-year-olds through 70 days of racing. Through 70 days at last year's stand, only 52 juvenile races had been run, and only 91 were run at the entire 96-day meeting.

Thursday's featured ninth race will match a half-dozen 2-year-old fillies, each eligible to be claimed for $16,000, at 5 1/2 furlongs. Most of the wagering dollars figure to be divided between Aquaduck and Ann August, who finished second and third, respectively, in a $25,000 to $20,000 claiming event at the same 5 1/2 furlongs here on July 26.

Aquaduck, who races for Mallard Stable and is trained by Terry Gillihan, won her debut at five furlongs over $16,000 maidens by 5 1/2 lengths on July 26 and was made the 9-5 second choice on July 26. She closed strongly along the rail to be beaten three-quarters of a length by Beautiful Swan that day, and off that effort she should be strongly backed on Thursday, when she will again be ridden by Hector Ventura Jr. at 117 pounds.

Ann August collected her maiden win in her third start on the $8,000 level on July 6, then finished just a half-length behind Aquaduck after contesting the pace in her most recent outing. Ann August is trained by Craig Roberts, who is enjoying a fine meeting with nine wins from 32 starters, and she will be ridden by leading rider Ben Russell at 117 pounds. Russell gets off two rivals, Easy Lady and Mimi La Rue, to team up with Ann August again on Thursday.