05/23/2003 11:00PM

Unyielding looks hard to catch

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AUBURN, Wash. - Unyielding, an authoritative winner of the six- furlong Auburn Stakes on May 3, will tote high weight of 123 pounds when he takes on seven other 3-year-olds in Monday's $40,000 Pepsi-Cola Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Unyielding won two allowance races and a pair of stakes last winter at Turf Paradise, so his victory in the Auburn merely confirmed his quality and form. There are two ways to look at his Auburn score, however.

The first is to recognize that he won the Auburn the hard way, disposing of three pace rivals with a blistering half-mile in 43.40 seconds, then easily holding off the late move of Knightsbridge Road to prevail by more than three lengths in 1:08.40.

But he also benefited from an enormous rail bias on May 3, when six of the 10 races were won by horses breaking from the rail and three others were won from post 2. Unyielding broke from the inside and hugged the rail throughout under Gary Baze.

Can Unyielding repeat his boffo Auburn performance on a more neutral surface? The possibility can't be discounted, as he appears to be meeting far less pace competition in the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola.

Unyielding will surely be a short-priced favorite, however, and that could prompt some bettors to go bargain hunting.

A logical alternative is Condotierri, who will be making his first start since he upset the Gottstein Futurity here last September.