10/12/2006 12:00AM

Forster has quite a handful

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - From a numerical standpoint there's a very good chance the winner of the Grade 3, $150,000 Ballerina at Hastings on Saturday will come out of Dave Forster's barn. After all, five of the 12 horses that are expected to start in the Ballerina are stabled there.

Forster, who has won the Ballerina four times, trains two of the horses, Langara Lass and Socorro County. The other three horses have been running at Emerald Downs: A Classic Life, Gins Majesty, and Karis Makaw. They're in Forster's shed row because of his strong connections to horsemen at Emerald, which would obviously include his son, Grant, the trainer of A Classic Life.

A Classic Life could be the one to beat in what shapes up as a wide-open race. She has run poorly in her last two starts, though. She finished fourth as the odds-on favorite in the Boeing Handicap on July 29 and hasn't raced since the Aug. 20 Emerald Downs Breeders' Cup, where she was once again favored but ran a very dull race to finish fourth behind Queenledo.

Nonetheless, A Classic Life runs well fresh, and with her tactical speed she should get a good trip behind Hurry an Otis, who figures to set a lively pace.

Forster said he isn't completely sure why A Classic Life ran so poorly in the Emerald Distaff but likes the way she's coming up to the Ballerina.

"She got left about 10 lengths in the Boeing, and then she tried to make it up all at once," he said. "She seemed fine after the race but it's possible it took more out of her than we thought. She's never run as dull a race at Emerald as she did in the Distaff. Nobody was going to beat Queenledo, who ran the race of her life, but our filly just wasn't herself."

Forster gave A Classic Life a break following her race in the Distaff, and he said she was "thriving after the rest."

"The people that own her, Mike and Amy Feuerborn, have a farm, so we sent her there for a few weeks to freshen her up," he said. "I've never brought her up to a big race like this off of this kind of schedule, but she worked a strong five furlongs at Emerald before we shipped her up to Hastings."

He added that he was happy with her local six-furlong work in 1:12.40 last Saturday.

This will be the second start at Hastings for A Classic Life. She was sent off as the favorite in the B.C. Breeders' Cup Oaks last year, but finished third behind Monashee, who also went on to win the Ballerina. A Classic Life went into last year's Oaks off of an easy six-length win over Gins Majesty in the Washington BC Oaks.

"She was coming back in just two weeks and that might have been too much for her," said Forster. "She also ran into a pretty nice horse in Monashee."

Forster likened A Classic Life's style of running to Magic Code, a horse his father trained that won the Ballerina three years in a row.

"She's very similar to Magic Code in that she's a strong galloper and she likes to make that big move in the middle of the race," he said.

Forster wouldn't trade chances with any other trainer in the race, but he was a little concerned that Hurry an Notis would get away on her own.

"I think it's a great betting race," he said. "Both Karis Makaw and Gins Majesty are doing well right now and the 3-year-olds coming out of the Oaks up here are going to be tough. Hopefully. someone will put some pressure on Hurry an Notis or she could be gone. If they don't, hopefully A Classic Life has enough speed that she won't be too far behind."

Forster agreed that A Classic Life is the one to beat, but he's not conceding anything.

"Both of my horses are coming up to the race in very good shape," he said. "Langara Lass keeps improving, and she ran a big race in the Oaks. Don't be afraid to bet a few dollars on her."

Socorro County hasn't won this year but she has the most lifetime earnings in the race and a big chunk of it came in races at 1 1/8 miles. She finished second in the B.C. Oaks in 2004 and also in last year's Ballerina. She won the 1 1/8-mile B.C. Cup Distaff in 2005.

"The more distance the better for her," said Forster. "She'll need an honest pace and a clean trip, though."

Socorro County is being reunited with jockey Robert Skell,. who has ridden her in all of her stakes wins.