04/22/2004 11:00PM

'Willie' back just 9 days after record


AUBURN, Wash. - Willie the Cat will head a compact field of five in Sunday's 66th running of the six-furlong, $40,000 Seattle Handicap at Emerald Downs.

Willie the Cat, a homebred son of Delineator who races for Ron Crocket Inc., is coming back nine days after setting a track record for 5 1/2 furlongs in the allowance feature on opening night, April 16.

In that race, Willie the Cat led by a length through fractions of 21.20 seconds and 43.40, then drew out through the stretch to score by nearly eight lengths in 1:01.20 to eclipse Salt Grinder's 2002 mark of 1:01.40. The world record, set by Plenty Zloty at Turf Paradise in 1995, is 1:01.10.

The win was the fourth in six career outings for Willie the Cat, and it improved his Emerald Downs record to 4 for 4. Trainer Tim McCanna has named Ricky Frazier to ride at 117 pounds.

Willie the Cat figures to get his stiffest challenge from Chilean import Zona de Impacto, who ships in sharp from Golden Gate after finishing second, beaten less than a length, in a $50,000 optional claimer at six furlongs on March 25. Interestingly, Willie the Cat finished ninth in that same race after stumbling at the start.

Like stablemate Ema Bovary, who has a nine-race win streak, Zona de Impacto was imported from Chile by owners Rick Beal and Lana Ramsey. He is trained by Sharon Ross and will be ridden by Roberto Gonzalez at 116 pounds.

Rounding out the field are Hastings stakes winner Illusive Force, local allowance winner Team Zachary, and Golden Gate winner Best on Tap.