06/14/2001 11:00PM

Crowing Meeting dangerous, wet or not at Emerald

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AUBURN, Wash. - Crowning Meeting, who will make his first start at the current Emerald Downs meeting in Sunday's $75,000 Emerald Budweiser Handicap at a mile, is an exceptional wet-track runner. But the fact that Crowning Meeting, a 7-year-old son of General Meeting, is undefeated in three starts over wet surfaces only hints at his prowess.

Consider the final two races he ran here last season. In an optional $50,000 claiming affair at a mile, run over a fast track on Aug. 20, Crowning Meeting defeated Inclinator by a half-length,earning a creditable Beyer Speed Figure of 94. Three weeks later in a mile allowance race contested over a sloppy surface, he defeated the same runner-up by 10 widening lengths, earning an astronomical Beyer Figure of 116, the highest ever registered at Emerald Downs.

So trainer Sharon Ross is doing a rain dance about now, right?

"I won't be doing any rain dances," she promised. "I always hope for a sunny day and a fast track. It's so much more fun to race in front of a big crowd on a nice day, and to know that the track is as safe as it can be. Even when I know my horse handles the mud, I worry about him taking a bad step and getting hurt.

"Besides, this horse can win over a fast track, too."

Crowning Meeting has won nine races over fast tracks, including a pair of 1 1/16-mile stakes in northern California after the Emerald meeting ended last fall. Victories in the $45,000 San Carlos Handicap at Bay Meadows in October and the $100,000 Forty Niner Handicap in November stretched his winning streak to four, but it was snapped when he ran ninth in the Lafayette Handicap on turf at Golden Gate in January.

"We blew the roll he was on by running him on the turf, which he doesn't really like," said Ross. "Then he hurt a stifle in his next race and came out of the race after that with mucus in his lungs, so we gave him some time off and started over."

Crowning Meeting will be trying a mile off a seven-week layoff, but Ross has had good success with the move in the past.

"I don't think it's particularly difficult if the horse is bred to route, and most of ours are," she said. "We train them every day, and every time they work we let them gallop out a mile afterward. We make sure they have a good bottom in them before we ask them to run.

"Crowning Meeting has gone through the full regimen, and I think he is ready to give a good account of himself. He has been training great."

Sharon's husband, Larry Ross, claimed Crowning Meeting, a full brother to Grade 1 stakes winner Excellent Meeting, for owners George and Norma Sedlock in 1999 for $50,000. They had bone chips removed from his knee, gave him plenty of time off, and brought him back to his best form.

Sharon Ross hopes the same program yields similar results with Misconception, a 4-year-old son of Bertrando who was purchased by owners Frank and Phyllis Gaunt at last summer's 505 Farms dispersal in California for $50,000.

"He had several bone chips, so we had them removed and gave him six months off," she said. "He is coming back like he is worth every penny Frank and Phyllis spent on him. I'm on the fence about running him this Sunday, because he popped an abscess and missed a workout last week, but I'm looking for a really nice 4-year-old campaign from him."

Kit Katabatic may start in sprint

Kid Katabatic, who won last year's Emerald Budweiser Handicap by more than four lengths over Crafty Boy, worked a half mile in 49 flat last Saturday and is nearing his 8-year-old debut.

"I think he'll be ready for the Independence Day Handicap on July 4," said trainer and part-owner Shauna Ferguson. "It's only 6 1/2 furlongs and that's not his best distance, but we've got to start him somewhere. As he gets fit he gets anxious to run, and I don't think he'll be happy waiting much longer."