08/16/2001 11:00PM

After 47 years, Forster's wait may be over


AUBURN, Wash. - Dave Forster has won practically every race worth winning in the Northwest since he began training at Hastings Park in 1954, and he has won most of them several times.

The exception is a notable one, however. Forster has never won the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile, which will be run for the 66th time at Emerald Downs on Sunday. Forster tried the Mile in 1982 and 1983 with Wander Kind, in 1988 with Taylor, and in 1998 with You've Got Action, but all ran off the board.

"The closest we came was with Taylor," recalled Forster. "He ran right up to Simply Majestic on the second turn, then Simply Majestic took off again and left him in the dust. Taylor was so stunned he staggered home sixth, and when he came back to be unsaddled he asked me, 'Who was that guy?' "

Forster and his son, Grant, who runs the Emerald Downs division of his stable, figure to have better luck Sunday, when they saddle two favorites and an intriguing longshot for the Longacres Mile. One of the favorites, Mike K, comes with an asterisk because he is trained by Allan Jack at Hastings Park. Jack suffered a heart attack in February and is reluctant to enter the U.S. because of the high cost of health care here, so the Forsters saddle Mike K when he races at Emerald as a favor to Jack.

It is possible that fans could see a reenactment of a scene that played out after the 1999 Gottstein Futurity. Trainer Frank Lucarelli saddled No Curfew as a favor to California trainer Ed Moger Jr., only to see him take a close decision from Lucarelli's own Cascade Casey. It was one of the rare times a trainer wore a long face in the winner's circle after a $100,000 race.

"That won't happen if Mike K wins, though," assured Grant Forster. "Mike K's main owner, Bert Perry, lives a mile down the road from us in Langley, B.C., and he is a great friend of our family. We'll be real happy if Bert's horse wins."

The Forsters, and especially Grant Forster, will be a lot happier if Makors Mark wins Sunday's Mile, however. The younger Forster started rubbing Makors Mark when he went to work full-time for his father last year, and the 4-year-old Son of Briartic colt has since won 7 of 13 starts, including last year's B.C. Derby at Hastings and this year's Budweiser-Emerald and Mt. Rainier handicaps at Emerald Downs.

"He has been a special horse for me, and he is the one horse I still look after myself," said Grant Forster. "I just really enjoy his company. He is an extremely confident horse, and he is very relaxed and easy to deal with for a stud. He loves people and he has a great personality, and of course he is very talented.

"This season he has been battling a quarter crack, but the patch is holding fine and his foot is cold. He is coming into the Mile just the way we want, and I think he has a big chance to win."

The Forsters' third horse in the Mile, Advantage, will be the X-factor in this year's race. Advantage, a 4-year-old son of Repriced, raced in his native Chile through this spring, winning 7 of 39 starts for owner Dave Mitchell. He arrived at the Forster barn about two months ago and made his first U. S. start in the 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap on Aug. 5, running a distant fourth to Handy N Bold.

"He ran against huge fields in Chile, so he was used to standing in the gate for several minutes while they loaded them all," explained Grant Forster. "There were only five horses in the Governor's and they loaded quickly, so he wasn't ready when they popped the gate. He also didn't like getting whipped that day, and the race was probably too short for him.

"We're taking a bit of a shot with him on Sunday, but he has been training well and there are lots of reasons for him to run better in his second race here. It's $18,750 to run fourth in the Mile and $11,000 to win the Mile Consolation, so why not take a shot in the big one?"