10/12/2005 11:00PM

Forster has Ballerina pas de deux


VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Trainer David Forster is no stranger when it comes to the Grade 3 Ballerina Breeders' Cup, which runs this Saturday at Hastings. Forster has won the race four times. His first win came in 1993 with Pilgrim's Treasure, and, beginning in 1998, he won the Ballerina three years in a row with Magic Code.

Forster started the 2005 season with four stakes-winning 4-year-old fillies: Overact, Gold Accent, Summer Symphony, and Socorro County. He is down to two, Summer Symphony and Socorro County, and they will be trying to upset Raylene in the Ballerina.

Forster has done a great job with the four fillies. He has pretty much kept them separated, and three have won stakes races this year. The one who didn't, Overact, has been stakes placed three times. Forster used the triangle of Hastings, Emerald Downs, and the two tracks in Alberta - Northlands Park and Stampede Park - as a way of keeping them out of each other's way.

"That was the plan all along," he said. "It didn't make sense to run them against each other if we didn't have to. Of course, if they were all still running, I probably would have run them all in the Ballerina."

Forster thinks that Summer Symphony, who won the Oaks and finished second in the Ballerina last year, is right on her game, and he gives her the nod over Socorro County.

"She peaked at this time last year," said Forster of Summer Symphony. "And she ran a very good race to finish second in the Delta Colleen in her last start, so it looks like she's coming around at just the right time again. She also won't mind an off track."

Forster feels very fortunate to be associated with Summer Symphony's owner, Janis Whitham. Along with her late husband, Frank, Janis Whitham campaigned horses like North American champion Bayakoa and multiple Grade 1 winner Affluent. More recently, two Whitham-owned horses, Mea Domina and Solar Echo, finished first and second in the Grade 1 Gamely Handicap at Hollywood Park. Forster met the Whithams through a mutual friend, breeder Frank Penn.

"Frank was boarding a few mares at the Whithams' farm," said Forster. "They were looking for a place other than Southern California to race some of their lesser horses, and since we got along very well, they sent their horses to me."

Forster said that Whitham puts the horses' well-being ahead of anything else, and when he ran a horse back a little quick for her liking, she let him know about it.

"She was very upset when I ran a horse back in two weeks," he said. "Even though the horse won the race, she didn't care."

The Ballerina will be Summer Symphony's last race. She will be sent to Whitham's farm in Kentucky, and, according to Forster, will be bred to Distorted Humor.

Monashee the best 3-year-old hope

For the past three years a 3-year-old filly has won the Ballerina. Monashee, who won the British Columbia Breeders' Cup Oaks and then ran a dull race against males in the British Columbia Derby, would appear to have the best shot of keeping that streak alive.

Monashee is trained by Tracy McCarthy, who is in Alberta preparing Notis Otis for the $50,000 Western Canada Handicap, which also runs Saturday. Her assistant trainer, Tom MacDonald, likes the way Monashee is coming up to the race.

"I'm not sure what happened in the derby," he said. "It's the fall, and she might have been having one of those days that females have this time of the year. I expect her to bounce back."

Other than Monashee, the only horse with any early lick is Pretty Meadow. A Kentucky-bred 5-year-old, Pretty Meadow has won the last two stakes at Hastings, and since there is a very good chance Monashee will be taken back off of the pace, Pretty Meadow could be tough to catch.

"She's never been better," said Pretty Meadow's trainer, Janet Armstrong. "She's really matured, and now you can get her to relax early in her races. I really like the way she finished in the Delta Colleen, and hopefully she'll be able to carry her speed this far."

Armstrong has also entered Stormented and Champagne Royale. Stormented won the Matriarch Handicap on July 30, and she finished third behind Pretty Meadow in the Delta Colleen. She has tactical speed and should be about mid-pack during the early stages. Champagne Royale will likely be far back during the early stages and then try to make one big move.

Armstrong is surprised that Champagne Royale, who has won her last two starts, is still in her barn.

"I was hoping we wouldn't, but I was pretty sure we were going to lose her when we ran her for $35,000 a couple of starts back," she said. "In fact, we didn't even bed down her stall, and we had to scramble to get it ready when she surprisingly came back home."

Justin Stein has been the regular rider for both Champagne Royale and Pretty Meadow, but he will be on Monashee in the Ballerina. David Wilson picks up the mount on Pretty Meadow, and Anthony Stephen rides Champagne Royale.

"I'm disappointed he's not riding Pretty Meadow," Armstrong said of Stein, "but I guess he had to ride the Oaks winner and I'm sure she'll get along fine with Davie."