08/31/2005 11:00PM

Tough to separate sprint pair

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AUBURN, Wash. - Starbird Road and Eastern Accent, who finished a head apart here Aug. 14, will meet again in Saturday's six-furlong feature at Emerald Downs, for optional $32,000 claiming company.

Starbird Road prevailed after pressing the pace of Eastern Accent throughout in their recent match-up, which also came in an optional $32,000 claimer, getting the distance in a rapid 1:08.40. It was the second win and the fourth exacta finish from five starts at the meeting for Starbird Road, a 4-year-old son of Count the Time from the barn of trainer Sharon Ross. Starbird Road, who missed all of his 3-year-old season with an injury, has drawn the outside post in Saturday's field of seven, and he again figures to press the pace of Eastern Accent under regular rider Debbie Hoonan.

Eastern Accent, a Bud Klokstad-trained 4-year-old by Eastern Echo, will be counting on second-out improvement to turn the tables on Starbird Road. Eastern Echo had been off since January before his last outing and had reason to be a tad short. He came back to post a solid five-furlong drill on Aug. 28 and could be coming up to a peak effort on Saturday, when he will again be ridden by Ben Russell.

Another who figures to improve on Saturday is Tessuto, who finished a well-beaten fifth when making his North American debut in the same race that Starbird Road and Eastern Accent exit. Tessuto, a New Zealand-bred son of Barathea, had won 4 of 14 outings in Australia.