09/03/2001 11:00PM

Forster notches third Belle Roberts


AUBURN, Wash. - "I like this race," said trainer Dave Forster after Monday's renewal of the $60,000 Belle Roberts Handicap at Emerald Downs, and why wouldn't he?

Forster saddled Tucumcari, who ran third in the 1 1/8-mile race for fillies and mares in 1996, then second in 1997 and first 1998. In 1999, Forster won the Belle Roberts for a second time with Magic Code, who returned and ran second last year. On Monday, the trainer got his third Belle Roberts trophy when Make Contact led throughout under Dave Wilson to post a 3 1/4-length win over Latter Day Paula in 1:50, rewarding her numerous backers with a $4.20 win payoff.

"There wasn't a lot of speed in the race, so I told Dave that if nobody wanted the lead he should just go on with it," said Forster. "That was the way it worked out, and Make Contact seemed to be comfortable out there. She will run from wherever you want to place her."

It was the ninth win from 20 starts for Make Contact, a 4-year-old daughter of Time to Explode who was purchased for just $5,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. She has now earned $260,411 for owners George Gilbert and Ray Hanson.

"Nobody wanted her at the sale," recalled Forster. "I think some people were turned off by her color, but I thought she was a pretty little filly and I liked her breeding."

Make Contact is a chestnut with unusual markings that include a large white blotch on her stomach, which explains her barn name, "Patches." Forster said the filly will go next in another race he fancies, the $175,000 Ballerina at Hastings Park on Oct. 1. Forster won the Ballerina with Magic Code in each of the last three years.

Bollock runners go 1-3 in stakes

Sunday was Steve Bullock's day to shine, as the trainer sent out Ashbecca and Solmar, who finished first and third in a thrilling renewal of the one-mile, $55,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes for 2-year-old fillies, which ended in a blanket finish. Sandwiched between Ashbecca, the 6-1 third choice in the wagering, and Solmar, a maiden who went off at 47-1, was the 8-5 favorite Lasting Code.

"I had been waiting to run Ashbecca a mile, because I knew she would like the distance," said Bullock. "Then I worked her in company with Solmar about a week ago, and Somar outworked her. I wasn't sure whether I had two live horses, or none."

Both were live, as Solmar tackled Lasting Code near the sixteenth pole and Ashbecca rolled by both in the shadow of the wire to prevail by a head in 1:39. Solmar finished another neck back.

It was the second win from five starts for Ashbecca, a daughter of Sandpit who is named for owner Dr. Rodney Orr's two daughters, Ashley and Rebecca. The win was the fifth stakes victory at the meeting for Bullock, who established a record with eight stakes wins at last year's stand. The trainer also won three stakes with the recently retired Fleet Pacific and one with Dr. Orr's Shandra Smiles, a 3-year-old filly who was sidelined early after suffering a knee chip.

Costly suspension for Russell

Leading rider Ben Russell's quest to break Vann Belvoir's record of 148 wins at a single Emerald Downs meeting suffered what is probably a fatal blow last week when he was suspended from Thursday through Sunday. The rider received the suspension for allowing his mount in last Saturday's sixth race, Summer Hit, to lug in and interfere with a rival en route to an apparent victory. Summer Hit was disqualified and placed fourth.

Russell had 130 wins through Monday's racing, but after sitting out this week he will have only five more racing days to amass the needed 19 wins.

Portland management scrambling

MEC Oregon Racing, Inc., the division of Magna Entertainment that hoped to operate an 80-day meeting at Portland Meadows beginning Oct. 20, is scrambling for alternatives after learning last week that the Environmental Protection Agency will not allow horses on the grounds. Training was to commence at Portland Meadows last Saturday, but the EPA unexpectedly rejected MEC Oregon Racing's storm-water retention plan.

Though the operator still hopes the EPA will reconsider its position, MEC Oregon Racing has suggested a spring meet spanning 45 calendar days, which would be governed by different guidelines than the planned 80-day meet.

MEC Oregon Racing has also reaffirmed its intention to build a new track in Oregon.