06/21/2002 12:00AM

Everybody's talking about the distance

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AUBURN, Wash. - Most horsemen like to believe they can predict, based on breeding, build, disposition, and running style, whether or not a horse will route. In most cases, they can. Exceptions abound, however.

Groovy and Dancing Spree were as stoutly bred as any in their generations, yet they became champion sprinters. Northern Dancer was short and blocky, yet he won the Kentucky Derby and became one of the world's premier sources of stamina. And the ranks of sprinters are riddled with horses who relax beautifully and finish with gusto, yet cannot carry their speed around two turns.

That is why trainer Mark Molina has kept an open mind about Bold Ranger's ability to go long. Bold Ranger, a 3-year-old son of Game Plan who races for Howard Hammer's Remmah Racing, Inc., has proven himself as a sprinter. He won the six-furlong Auburn Stakes in a crisp 1:08.80 on May 4, then came back three weeks later to win the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap in a track record-equaling 1:13.80, coming from just off the pace to score going away on both occasions. After the Pepsi Cola, Molina was asked if Bold Ranger would carry his speed farther, but he demurred.

"It's 50-50," he said. "I never believe they can do it until they do it. I don't care how they are bred or how they act, they've got to prove it on the track."

Bold Ranger will have his chance to prove he can go a mile on Sunday in the $45,000 Seattle Slew Handicap, and Molina feels he has done his part to prepare him for the challenge.

"He has been training really well, and he worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 last week," said the trainer. "I think I've got him about as ready as I can get him. Now it's up to him.

"If I were to guess, I'd say he'll get a mile because of his disposition and the way he handles himself. I thought it was encouraging that he sat off the leader and waited for the rider to ask him to run in his last two races. But that's just a guess. We'll see how he does on Sunday."

Bold Ranger isn't the only Seattle Slew entrant who faces a distance test. His chief rivals are also unproven over a route of ground.

Flying Notes was favored at 3-5 in the Pepsi Cola after posting impressive allowance victories at 5 1/2 and six furlongs, but he could not hold off Bold Ranger in the 6 1/2-furlong stakes and was beaten by half a length. It was a highly creditable effort for Flying Notes, a gelded son of French Deputy from the Caro mare Caromine, but it didn't bode well for his chances of reversing the outcome over more ground.

"I really didn't think Bold Ranger would beat him last time," admitted trainer Bud Klokstad. "But he did, and now we've got to deal with him at a mile. I was pleased with the way our horse battled back after Bold Ranger passed him. I thought he was very game, and I know he'll try hard again on Sunday. It's just a question of who handles the added distance better, and that's hard to predict.

"Flying Notes has the breeding to go on, but he is built like a Quarter Horse. There are mixed signals."

Assistant trainer Grant Forster feels the signals are clear regarding All in One's aptitude for route racing. All in One, a long-striding son of Hawk Attack who races for Herman Sarkowsly, finished fast to defeat maiden special weight company in his debut here on May 4, then returned to run third to Bold Ranger and Flying Notes in the Pepsi Cola.

Though he was beaten eight lengths, Forster and his father, trainer Dave Forster, found the effort encouraging. "He stumbled at the start and lost three lengths, but he managed to pass a couple of nice horses to get third," said Grant Forster. "Considering it was only his second start, we were pleased with the way he ran. "We always figured he would need to go a mile or farther to show his best stuff, so we're hoping he'll take a big step forward in this race. Of course there is no guarantee that he'll like the added distance, but we'll sure be disappointed if he doesn't."

Pure white and ready to race

Arctic White will make his long-anticipated racing debut in Sunday's eighth race at Emerald Downs, a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds and up. Arctic White is one of only a dozen Thoroughbreds ever to have been registered as pure white in color by The Jockey Club, and as such he has been an object of curiosity since he came to trainer Howard Belvoir's barn in the spring of 2001 as a 2-year-old.

Sore shins prevented him from starting at 2, but he returned to training this spring and has been working exceptionally well of late, drilling six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.60 on June 2 and going four furlongs in 48.80 on Monday.

Arctic White, who races for breeder Dalene Knight, is a colt by the Naevus stallion Airdrie Apache from Tropicana Anna, by Raise a Man.

* Last year's Gottstein Futurity winner, Horatio, will skip the Seattle Slew in favor of the $75,000-added Burnaby Breeders' Cup Stakes at Hastings Park on June 29.

* Bryson Cooper, who has been riding off and on for the past 34 years, has officially called it quits. Cooper accepted his first mount in two years last Sunday, but found that his knees, which have been through five operations, could not endure the rigors of riding.