05/27/2003 12:00AM

Top two both excel at a mile

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AUBURN, Wash. - It will be Hayden Storm's early speed against Thunder Zoot's closing kick in Thursday's featured sixth race at Emerald Downs, an $8,000-to-$7,000 claiming event for older horses at a mile.

While Hayden Storm and Thunder Zoot have contrasting running styles, they share a fondness for the one-mile distance. Hayden Storm owns a career mark of 14-5-2-3 at a mile, while Thunder Zoot has a record of 13-6-2-3 at the distance.

Hayden Storm, a 6-year-old son of Zapped who was claimed back by his former trainer Tim McCanna for $8,000 in his last outing, is coming off a rare poor effort at a mile on May 16. On that occasion he made the mistake of trying to match strides early with a much quicker Be the Bunny and checked out after a half-mile in 45.80 seconds, finishing nearly a dozen lengths back in fifth. He appears to be the clear speed of Thursday's field and should fare much better after dictating slower fractions under jockey Ben Russell.

Thunder Zoot is also coming off a subpar try, finishing eighth in a 6 1/2 furlong dash for $12,500 claimers on May 18. Thunder Zoot, a 5-year-old from the barn of trainer Nub Norton, was probably entered too high and too short that day, however, and figures to bounce back under Scott Saito with Thursday's double drop in class and the return to the route game.

Interestingly, both Hayden Storm and Thunder Zoot were ridden last time out by Gary Baze, who winds up on The Right Prize in Thursday's feature. Baze rode The Right Prize to a showy 5 3/4-length victory over restricted $5,000 foes in his last outing on May 15.