06/20/2001 11:00PM

Favored 'Fleet' faces tough task

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AUBURN, Wash. - Fleet Pacific will be looking to extend her streak of six straight stakes wins at Emerald Downs when she takes on eight challengers in Saturday's $40,000 King County Handicap at one mile.

Fleet Pacific, a 7-year-old daughter of Colonel Stevens who races for Rocking B Thoroughbreds, closed out last year's Emerald meet with four consecutive, wire-to-wire stakes wins. She began her current campaign with a hard-fought neck victory over Miss Pixie in the

May 13 Hastings Park Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs, then came back with a half-length win over Taste the Passion in the Washington State Legislators Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs on June 3.

Fleet Pacific was favored at 3-5 in her most recent score and will doubtless be favored again on Saturday, but her price should be higher. Three factors conspire against the Steve Bullock trainee: She will carry highweight of 123 pounds - two pounds more than she carried during her win streak - while adding distance; she figures to face intense pace pressure from Run a Copy, who hooked her through a fast half-mile in the Hastings Park; and she will have to break from the outside post with a short run to the first turn.

Taste the Passion may have the best chance to upset. A Northwest Farms 4-year-old, she skipped the Hastings Park, when Fleet Pacific had to battle hard for the lead, then nearly caught her in the Washington State Legislators, when Fleet Pacific enjoyed a clear advantage through moderate fractions. With a faster pace likely for Saturday, Taste the Passion should prove difficult to resist in the stretch.