05/01/2009 12:00AM

Wasserman loses a rival


AUBURN, Wash. - Wasserman is in and The Great Face is out as the Emerald Downs handicap division takes its first steps Sunday toward the Northwest's biggest race. Wasserman is the likely favorite in the $30,000 Seattle Handicap at six furlongs, a stepping-stone to the Grade 3, $300,000 Longacres Mile on Aug. 16. Wasserman won the Mile in 2008, one of his four stakes victories at the meeting.

But The Great Face, who won the Mile in 2007, was forced into retirement this week after sustaining a tendon injury in his left front leg while finishing third in an allowance race on April 17. His first race since August 2007 will now be his last, trainer Tom Wenzel said Thursday. Owned by Emerald Downs president Ron Crockett, the 7-year-old gelding by Cahill Road won 7 of his 16 career starts, earning $340,159.

In addition to winning the Longacres Mile and the Mount Rainier Handicap in 2007, The Great Face tied the track record of 1:01.20 for 5 1/2 furlongs. He missed all of 2008 because of a bone chip in his right front ankle.

Wasserman was assigned top weight of 120 pounds for the Seattle Handicap. Fourth in the April 17 allowance behind stablemate Assessment, Margo's Gift and The Great Face, Wasserman may be primed for a quick turnaround in his second start of 2009. The Howard Belvoir trainee broke alertly in his comeback, dropped back to a stalking position under regular rider Jennifer Whitaker, and raced wide throughout. Wasserman finished well and gets another half-furlong in the Seattle Handicap to unleash his finishing kick. Wasserman has won 4 of 7 starts at six furlongs.

A couple of new shooters will try to fill the void left by The Great Face. One is A Cat Named Snipe, a speedy 4-year-old trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. Though he won his maiden less than a year ago, A Cat Named Snipe has been knocking heads with quality sprinters in California. In his most recent start, he helped set fast fractions in the $75,000 Golden Gate Sprint Handicap before yielding to finish last in a field of five.

The other newcomer is Kruger Park, who was claimed for $50,000 at Santa Anita in his last start. Alfredo Marquez trains Kruger Park.

The field of nine also includes Margo's Gift, a multiple stakes winner going short; two-time Seattle Handicap winner Starbird Road, who is returning from a nearly two-year layoff; Exclusive Eagle, a stakes winner around two turns in 2007; Reel Prime, a recent allowance winner at Hastings Park; and two-time stakes winner Fear No Evil.

The Seattle Handicap will go as the sixth race on a 10-race card. First post time is 2 p.m.