11/14/2003 1:00AM

Blowin in the Wind profited by near misses

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - If Blowin in the Wind runs his "A" race in Sunday's allowance feature, it should be good enough to win. The problem is that Blowin in the Wind has made a habit of saving his best performances for six-figure stakes races.

Last year Blowin in the Wind just missed winning the Grade 2, $217,000 British Columbia Derby. In his most recent race, this year, he came within a head of winning the Grade 3, $127,000 Premier's. Both times he was sent off at long odds, over 50-1 in the derby and 33-1 in the Premier's, because of his less-than-stellar form going into those races. Terri Forster, who is the assistant trainer to her husband, Dave, thinks the time of year the B.C. Derby and Premier's are held might have something to do with the strong outings.

"The track is a little softer and deeper this time of the year, and he seems to be willing to lay his body down over the kinder surface," she said. "Right now he's training as well as ever, and he should run a good race Sunday."

Blowin in the Wind, nicknamed "Bob" after Bob Dylan, the author of the song for which he is named, has won only two races but has earned $141,279. Of course, a few extra inches in some of his races would have meant a lot more money for his owners.

"It's been a bit frustrating," said Forster. "But he's just a 4-year-old, and he's very sound, so he could be a pretty good horse next year."

The Forsters also own and bred Blowin in the Wind, whose dam, Stray, died this summer. She was a stakes winner for the Forsters, and in addition to Blowin in the Wind produced stakes-placed Streets of Laredo and Red River Valley.

"She was the first stakes horse we raised ourselves," said Forster. "It was pretty sad losing her, but she was a gray and for some reason it seems that grays are susceptible to cancer. She had a foal last spring by Captain Collins."

Training horses runs in the family, and the Forsters' son Grant is currently training a string of horses at Churchill Downs, where he won three races this week. Dave and Terri were considering sending Blowin in the Wind to Kentucky but changed their minds after the Premier's.

"If he didn't run a good race in the Premier's we probably would have sent him with Grant and run him for a tag," Terri Forster said. "But since he ran so well we'll keep him here for next year. I can't remember which horse it was, but a few years ago we sold a good 3-year-old because we thought the older handicap division was going to be very tough the next year. It turned out that all of the horses we were worried about went somewhere else and we wished we had kept him. If all goes well we'll run him back in the Au Revoir closing day and then turn him out for the winter."

Forster also reported that Secondary School went with Grant to Churchill but she will race only a couple of more times before being retired and bred by her owner, Janis Whitham.

Vernon Invader: Coulda, shoulda . . .

Vernon Invader, who is also entered in the Sunday feature, is another horse who could have earned a lot more money than he has. In a bizarre set of circumstances back in 1998, he could have swept the Alberta, B.C., and Emerald derbies, but ended up with the trophy for only the B.C. Derby.

He finished first in the Alberta Derby, but there was an inquiry into the stretch run and the stewards let the result stand. The stewards' decision, however, was subsequently overturned by the Alberta Racing Commission, and Vernon Invader was placed second. In the Emerald Derby, he finished second, but was disqualified and placed last for interference early in the race. The winner later tested positive and was disqualified.

He has still done pretty well for his owner, William Smith, and will go over $600,000 in earnings if he wins Sunday.

Vernon Invader worked a brilliant five furlongs in 58.40 seconds before the first race last Saturday.

"I just wanted to put him on his toes before this race," said trainer Alex Murray, who helps Smith with the training of Vernon Invader. Smith is listed as the trainer, but he is usually in Murray's barn when at Hastings. "He normally runs well after a good work and he seems to be totally recovered from his trip to Alberta."

Vernon Invader finished second in the B.C. Cup Classic and the S.W. Randall Plate before shipping to Northlands for the Speed to Spare, where he ran a dull race to finish seventh.