08/22/2007 11:00PM

You know Gold Lad will run his race


AUBURN, Wash. - Gold Lad, a winner of 3 of his 5 starts at the meeting, is the one to beat on Saturday when he takes on nine rivals in the 6o1/2-furlong feature for $25,000 to $22,500 claimers.

Gold Lad, a 6-year-old son of Gold Fever from the barn of trainer Tim McCanna, has been a consistent performer throughout his career. He has 9 wins and 18 in-the-money finishes from 32 starts, with $124,378 in earnings. Gold Lad has been particularly sharp at the current stand, posting two wins over $20,000 claimers at six furlongs and another over the same kind at 6 1/2 furlongs. In his most recent outing, on Aug. 3, his customary late charge fell a neck shy of catching Idabetabuck in a 6 1/2-furlong test for $20,000 claimers that was run in 1:15. Regular rider Ricky Frazier has the call.

Gold Lad may get his stiffest challenge from Tusko T., a stakes winner who has been anything but consistent through three campaigns. Tusko T., a 4-year-old son of You and I trained by Howard Belvoir, won his 2-year-old debut against maiden special weight company and came right back to win the six-furlong Emerald Express Stakes in 2005. He has not won in 13 subsequent starts, but he did finish a close second to $17,500 rivals and to $25,000 foes when going six furlongs in his last two outings.

"His whole problem has been nerves," said Belvoir. "The day he won the stakes he washed out in the paddock very badly, and he really hasn't improved that much over the years. I think we've found his proper level and distance now, and he is running well. From my perspective, though, he is a horse who never came close to reaching his full potential."

Regular rider Jennifer Whitaker has the mount on Tusko T.

Also dangerous are Code Red, who edged Tusko T. for the win in both of his last two outings, and High Lode.

Code Red posted a win over $12,500 company earlier in the meeting before notching back-to-back scores on July 21 and Aug. 10. High Lode has been knocking at the door against $25,000 and $32,000 claiming company.