07/15/2004 11:00PM

Forster has a hunch about Summer Symphony

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - A 3-year-old filly other than Regal Red will actually win a stakes race at Hastings this year. Regal Red has dominated every stakes for 3-year-old fillies at the meet, but she's taking a short leave of absence and that makes the 1 1/16-mile Nanaimo Stakes a wide-open race on Sunday.

Trainer David Forster has entered three horses, but you won't get much of a price, because they'll run as an entry. Of the three, Socorro County will attract the most attention.

In her five lifetime starts, Socorro County has won twice and had the misfortune of running into Regal Red in her other three races. In one of her wins, she beat River's Reach by five lengths in a $50,000 optional race July 1, also at 1 1/16 miles. River's Reach also runs in the Nanaimo.

Forster's other two, Summer Symphony and Gold Accent, are both coming off wins in maiden special weight races.

Even though Socorro County is the most accomplished of the three, Forster said she may not be the best of them.

"They're all coming up to the race in great shape, and of course Socorro County has proven it more than the other two," he said. "But I kind of like Summer Symphony. I always thought she would be a better horse when she stretched out, and it was nice to see her win the first time she went a route. I would probably bet on the wrong one, anyway, so it's probably a good thing they're running as an entry."

It isn't surprising that Summer Symphony improved when she went around three turns for the first time. She has a 365 Tomlinson

figure for the distance, highest in the race, and her dam, Second Symphony, was stakes placed at 1 1/8 miles. Summer Symphony is also a half-sister to Secondary School, who is a stakes winner at 1 1/16 miles and finished a neck behind Dancewithavixen in the 1 1/8-mile Ballerina last year.

From a betting standpoint, it's too bad Summer Symphony is part of an entry with the other two Forster horses. She is owned separately by her breeder, Janis Whitham, and in some jurisdictions, she would be allowed to run as a single interest. At Hastings, however, if a trainer owns any part of a horse, they all have to coupled.

Forster, who isn't much of a gambler and owns half of Socorro County, says he doesn't mind the rule.

"The first time they ever uncoupled an entry here they were mine - On Your Way and First Purchase," he said. "Going down the backside First Purchase was in front and getting tired. It was getting a little greasy, and he didn't handle the off going very well. Chris Loseth was riding First Purchase, and he eased him out from the rail to try and find better footing, and Bobby Stein came through along the rail with On Your Way, who went on to win and paid $43. First Purchase was 6-5 and finished third. Jack Diamond, who owned the track at the time, wanted to kill me. He said that their switchboard lit up like a Christmas tree. It looked like I set it up, but of course that wasn't the case at all."

Lord Samari could use better trip

Lord Samari will likely be one of the favorites in the co-feature, the Jim Coleman Province. He's coming off a second-place finish in the Alberta Derby, and, according to his trainer, Rob VanOverschot, he was unlucky to have lost.

"He got left a little at the start," he said. "He broke sideways and hit the gate. So he was behind the field and had to go around everything. Then they all bunched up and he had to go five wide around all of the turns. Also, going to the quarter pole, a horse went around him and stopped, so he had to check and go around him, too. It was just a bad, bad trip."

VanOverschot said that if all went well Lord Samari would make his next start in the Stallion Stakes on British Columbia Cup Day, Aug. 2.

* Vancouver City Council began public hearings regarding the Hastings proposal to add slot machines at the track. Because of time restraints, only 21 of the 203 people who have signed up to speak were heard Thursday evening. The hearings will likely go until Tuesday evening, and it's possible they could be carried over until next Friday.