05/08/2003 11:00PM

Forster follows parents' footsteps


AUBURN, Wash. - Youcan'ttakeme comes into Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Federal Way Handicap at Emerald Downs with impressive credentials, including three wins from seven starts for more than $75,000 in earnings, plus the honor of being named last year's top Washington-bred 2-year-old filly.

There is something missing from her resume, however. Youcan'ttakeme, a homebred daughter of He's Tops who races for Herman Sarkowsky, has yet to win a stakes race.

"We hope to take care of that on Sunday," said trainer Grant Forster. "We really thought she would win her last race at Oaklawn Park in April, which was a $70,000 stakes at a mile, but she got heat exhaustion. It was 89 degrees and they spent almost 40 minutes in the paddock because a filly lost a shoe and she didn't want to be re-shod. Youcan'ttakeme set the pace, but she got wobbly-legged down the lane and she collapsed when we got her back to the barn.

"The only good thing about heat exhaustion is that the horses are as good as new once you put a hose on them and get them cooled off. Youcan'ttakeme hasn't suffered any ill effects. She is doing super now, and we're expecting her to run big."

Forster, who turns 29 on May 19, began training under his own name this spring at Oaklawn Park, where he won his first official start with Preamble, but he is hardly a neophyte. A son of successful Hastings Park-based trainers Dave and Terri Forster, he grew up around horses and regularly assisted his parents.

Forster graduated from the University of Arizona's Racetrack Industry Program and interned in various management positions at Emerald Downs, but found the work unfulfilling.

"I ran away to the Dominican Republic in the fall of 1999 and got a job as a bartender so I could re-think my direction in life," he said. "I decided I wanted to train horses, but it took a lot of letters and phone calls to convince my dad that it was a good idea. He finally gave in, and March of 2000 he put me in charge of his Emerald Downs horses. My mom was in charge of the Hastings horses, and my dad shuttled between the two of us and oversaw the whole operation.

"The situation really hasn't changed, but now the Emerald horses are running under my name. I talk to my dad four or five times every morning by cell phone, but he is coming down here less and less often and I am getting more and more responsibility. It is really an ideal situation for me, and I am enjoying every minute of it."

The younger Forster earned his added responsibility with a successful Midwest campaign during the Emerald off-season. He took six horses, including Youcan'ttakeme and former Emerald horse-of-the-meeting Makors Mark, to Keeneland, Churchill Downs, Arlington Park, and Oaklawn Park, winning five races from 27 starts.

"It was an awesome experience for me, and I think I learned some things that will help me in the future," he said. "I'm looking forward to going back to the Midwest again after Emerald closes, but this time I hope to be able to take 15 or 20 horses."

Turf Paradise trainer eager to run

Trainer Sarina Obergfell just arrived at Emerald Downs from Turf Paradise on Wednesday evening, but she will waste little time in fielding her first local starter. Obergfell intends to run Silk N Diamonds, a stakes-winning daughter of Half Turn, in the Federal Way Handicap.

"She is a very nice filly and she is ready to run, so if nothing happens between now and Sunday she will go in the stakes," said the trainer.

"She was off for five months, but I got a prep race into her before we left Phoenix. She threw her head at the start and got away slowly in an allowance race, but she finished well for fourth and the race probably did her a lot of good. We will just have to see how she fits with the fillies up here."

Obergfell brought 10 horses with her from Phoenix, and she reported that they all shipped well. She said she may get a couple of 2-year-olds from Arizona later in the season, and that she will be looking to claim horses.

"It's my first time racing at Emerald, so I will just play it by ear for awhile," she said. "I wanted to try something new."

Optimism Playfair will open

At a meeting of the Washington Horse Racing Commission on Thursday morning, operator Eric Nelson said Playfair will run its 40-day 2003 meeting this fall if two conditions can be met. He said he needs to reach a long-term contract agreement with eastern Washington horsemen and to amend his lease from Jack Pring's Appleway Leasing, which owns the Spokane track.

"I'm very optimistic that both of those things can be done," he said. "I'm scheduled to meet with both parties next week, and I think they will work with us to ensure that we can race. Things might be tight for the first two or three years, but we will be seeking additional sources of revenue and I think the long-term future of Playfair can be very bright if we all work together."

Nelson had earlier asked the commission to consider letting him cancel the 2003 Playfair meeting while continuing to simulcast, citing disappointing simulcast revenues thus far this year due to factors beyond his control. The commission was decidedly cool to that request, and Nelson effectively withdrew it on Thursday.

In other business, the commission approved a rule change that permits Emerald Downs to offer head to head wagering propositions. In requesting the change, director of marketing Susie Sourwine said Emerald will probably only offer the new wager on the Longacres Mile, the track's most prestigious race.