07/01/2003 11:00PM

Turban tries to keep ball rolling

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AUBURN, Wash. - Turban seeks a third straight stakes win when he heads a field of eight in Friday's $40,000 Independence Day Handicap at 1 1/16 miles at Emerald Downs.

Turban, a rapidly improving 4-year-old son of Lord Avie, will concede from 2 to 12 pounds to his rivals as the 120-pound highweight. Nevertheless, he figures to go off as a solid favorite off his sparkling record of four wins, a second, and a third from just six starts, including wins in the 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap and the one-mile Budweiser Emerald Handicap in his last two outings.

As if his own accomplishments weren't enough to make him the favorite, Turban will be coupled with the speedy Salt Grinder, owing to common ownership ties. Salt Grinder is owned by Homestretch Farm, the stable name for the family of trainer Jim Penney, and Homestretch Farm shares ownership of Turban with breeders Rick and Debbie Pabst, Rob Wuensch, and Walter Remak.

Penney will also saddle 2002 Longacres Mile winner Sabertooth, who will share second-highweight honors with Moonlight Meeting, the winner of last year's Independence Day, at 118 pounds.

Also entered are Budweiser Emerald runner-up Alfurune, Portland Meadows Mile winner Poker Brad, Smokey Session, and Skip to the Stone, who will be making his Emerald Downs debut.

Skip to the Stone has been racing for trainer Bob Baffert in California, where he won a $70,000 allowance race going a mile at Santa Anita in February. He is now under the care of local trainer Bud Klokstad. He worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 June 18.