09/14/2006 11:00PM

Two competitive stakes on otherwise chalky day


AUBURN, Wash. - Strong favorites will be the rule in most of the six stakes for Washington-breds on the undercard of Sunday's Washington Cup Day program, but there are two noteworthy exceptions.

One is the $40,000 Chinook Pass Sprint at six furlongs, which will go as the fifth race on the card. Starbird Road, Sabertooth, and Slewicide Cruise are included in the field of six, and fans figure to have a hard time deciding among those three stars.

Starbird Road is the "now" sprinter at Emerald Downs after winning three of four starts at the stand, including the six-furlong Seattle Handicap and the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap. A 5-year-old trained by Sharon Ross, Starbird Road missed a scheduled start in the Aug. 20 Longacres Mile because of a bruised tendon sheath, but Ross said he has recovered. Starbird Road gave weight to Ross's words by working five furlongs in 58.20 last weekend.

Sabertooth is a former Longacres Mile winner and a world-record holder at 6 1/2 furlongs. He recently returned to top form with a pair of authoritative wins over $20,000 and $32,000 company. An 8-year-old who is now trained by Grant Forster, Sabertooth is the speed of every race he enters and should show the way again Sunday.

Slewicide Cruise, who was named the meeting's top sprinter after winning the Chinook Pass in 2004, is another who has returned to form recently. Slewicide Cruise missed most of last year with an injury to his suspensory ligament, and he suffered an eye injury when he charged the gate before this year's FSN Handicap, but he showed his best stuff when last seen in a six-furlong allowance test on Sept. 3. Slewicide Cruise, a 6-year-old trained by Robbie Baze, won that race by 2 1/4 lengths over Wasserman in 1:08, equaling the fastest time at the meeting for six furlongs.

Favoritism is also up for grabs in the $40,000 Trooper Seven Stakes for 3-year-old colts and geldings at one mile, which will go as the sixth race. The field of 10 includes Zillah's Knight, Exclusive Eagle, Sharper Edge, and Midwesterner, who finished within 2 1/2 lengths of each other in the $100,000 Emerald Breeders' Cup Derby at nine furlongs on Sept. 4.

Zillah's Knight edged Exclusive Eagle by a neck for second in the derby, but Exclusive Eagle defeated Zillah's Knight and others when he won the Seattle Slew Handicap at 1 1/16 miles in his previous start Aug. 6. Sharper Edge finished fifth in the derby, but he raced extremely wide around the second turn and might have been right there at the finish with a better trip. Midwesterner finished seventh in the derby, but he was still in contention for the win after a mile and should appreciate Sunday's cutback in distance.

There is little question who will be favored in the other four stakes on the Washington Cup undercard. She's All Silk looks to be a heavy choice over six rivals in the $40,000 John and Kitty Fletcher Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile, which will lead off the parade of stakes as the third race. A daughter of Delineator trained by Pat Mullens, She's All Silk is coming off a front-running win over open company in the meet's top offering for the division, the $100,000 Washington Oaks at nine furlongs on Aug. 19.

Irene's Bonus Baby also figures to be a solid choice over six foes in the $40,000 Diane Kem Stakes for 2-year-old fillies at six furlongs, which will go as the fourth race. A daughter of Free at Last trained by Doris Harwood, Irene's Bonus Baby is another who beat open company in her division's top offering, the $100,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile on Sept. 3.

Queenledo might be the strongest favorite of the day. She heads a field of nine in the $50,000 Belle Roberts Handicap for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles, which will go as the seventh race. A 4-year-old daughter of Slewdledo trained by Tim McCanna, Queenledo annihilated open company in her last start, the $100,000 Emerald Distaff at a Mile on Aug. 20, when she drew off to win by more than eight lengths.

Immigration is another who should receive strong support. He heads a field of nine in the $40,000 Captain Condo Stakes at six furlongs, which will go as the ninth race. Immigration finished eighth as the favorite over open company in the $55,000 WTBA Lads at a mile Sept. 2, but he was undefeated through three sprint races, including the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes and the 6 1/2-furlong Strong Ruler Stakes. Immigration, a Delineator colt trained by Howard Belvoir, will try to make amends against Washington-breds at what may be his favorite distance.