06/21/2004 11:00PM

A tough Demon Warlock rewards Gillihan


AUBURN, Wash. - The big question on everyone's mind before Sunday's $75,000 Budweiser Emerald Handicap at Emerald Downs was whether Willie the Cat could stretch his abundant speed to a mile, and that question seemed to be answered by the big gray's disappointing fifth-place finish.

Hardly anybody bothered to ponder whether Demon Warlock could go a mile. Either they figured it didn't much matter because Demon Warlock, a $25,000 claim in March, wasn't good enough to threaten the likes of the favored Poker Brad, or they thought they already knew the answer. In his only previous mile try, in last year's Golden State Mile at Golden Gate, the then-3-year-old Demon Warlock had checked in seventh and last, earning a modest Beyer Speed Figure of 78.

That was long before trainer Terry Gillihan claimed Demon Warlock for owners Tim and Allen Floyd and Mike Nist, however. At the time of the Golden State Mile, Demon Warlock was trained by Gillihan's friend, Ed Moger Jr., who later lost him via claim to trainer John Martin.

"After we claimed Demon Warlock, I went to Ed and asked him about the horse," Gillihan said. "He told me they took chips out of his ankle after that mile race, so I just sort of threw that race out."

Gillihan didn't worry much about whether Demon Warlock could go a mile. As a son of Demons Begone, he was bred to go that far and farther. For the trainer, the question was mainly whether Demon Warlock was good enough to take on Poker Brad, who ran second to Sky Jack in last year's Grade 3 Longacres Mile.

"I know Poker Brad is a tough horse, but my horse is tough, too," Gillihan said. "I think he's quite special. He just tries so hard. When he gets his head in front, he doesn't want to let anybody by."

Demon Warlock, who was ridden by Adalberto Lopez, demonstrated his toughness through a memorable stretch run on Sunday. At the top of the lane, Demon Warlock joined Poker Brad, who had just put away the pacesetting Willie the Cat, and Demon Warlock and Poker Brad dueled to the wire, bumping repeatedly.

After a photo finish and an inquiry that concluded the bumping was mutual, Demon Warlock was declared the winner by a head. He ran the mile in 1:34.40 and paid $29.80 to win.

Demon Warlock's victory, his eighth from 19 starts, snapped a frustrating string for Gillihan, who came into the Budweiser Emerald with 20 second- or third-place finishes to only three victories at the meeting. Lopez said he felt that streak couldn't last.

"I told him we'd be happy after this race," the rider said.

Mr. Makah steps up

The next challenger in the handicap ranks probably emerged from Saturday's one-mile allowance feature, which was won by Mr. Makah in 1:35. Mr. Makah, a 4-year-old full brother to a Washington Cup Classic winner, Colony Lane, was making his first start around two turns.

"We actually nominated him for the Budweiser Emerald, but we decided he wasn't quite ready for those horses," trainer Bonnie Jenne said. "Now I guess we'll have to try them. He'll probably run next in the Independence Day Handicap."

First-out winner for Villyard

Trainer Aubrey Villyard unveiled an exciting prospect in Sunday's five-furlong maiden special weight race for 2-year-old fillies. Charming Colleen, a daughter of dual classic winner Charismatic, led throughout to win by three lengths in 57.80 seconds, the fastest clocking at the distance for a juvenile at the meeting.

"I was surprised she showed so much speed," Villyard said. "I really thought she was a route horse."

Villyard said owner Frank Gaunt paid $32,000 for Charming Colleen at the Barretts yearling sale last October.

"It was more than Frank planned on paying, and I sort of encouraged him," Villyard said. "I'm glad she won first time out. It takes some of the pressure off."

The trainer said Charming Colleen will go next in the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes on July 11.