04/22/2003 11:00PM

You want speed? You got it.

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AUBURN, Wash. - The forecast calls for speed on Friday at Emerald Downs, where nine older sprinters will vie in the 5 1/2-furlong feature for $10,000 claimers.

Baby Wave and Be the Bunny appear to be quickest of the quick, though it remains to be seen if either of the two front-runners is ready to carry his speed to the wire off a layoff.

Baby Wave, a 7-year-old from the barn of defending training champion Tim McCanna, raced only once last year and that was in May, when he finished sixth after showing the way into the stretch while racing for a $20,000 tag. He has not raced since.

A son of Seattle Sleet, Baby Wave won three times in 2001, leading throughout to down $16,000 and $25,000 claimers at Emerald and then wiring allowance runners at Bay Meadows. Baby Wave has been working as fast as ever and will have the riding services of Scott Saito at 119 pounds.

Be the Bunny last raced in December, when he led throughout to defeat allowance company at Portland Meadows, getting six furlongs in 1:11.68. Now trained by Dayson Lavanway, Be the Bunny won a mile race here last season at the $20,000 level, but is best known as a front-running sprinter. He will be ridden Friday by Nate Chaves at 119 pounds.

Others with keen early foot include Diamond Ten, Zipledo, Sidekick, Real True Spirit, and Weinhard.

Special Sign, an allowance winner at Portland Meadows last winter, is at his best from just off the pace, while Sou'wester is the field's only true closer. With a plethora of speed to target, Sou'wester figures as the one to look for in the final yards.