08/08/2002 11:00PM

Injury puts 'Crowning' out for year

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AUBURN, Wash. - Crowning Meeting, who tied one track record and set another in four starts at the Emerald Downs meeting, is out for the year with a hip injury.

"He pulled a stifle galloping last week, and I'm just not going to take any chances with him," said trainer Sharon Ross. "He seems fine now, but these things don't just disappear. It's a drag, but he will heal. He'll be back next year."

Crowning Meeting, an 8-year-old full brother to Grade 1 stakes winner Excellent Meeting, was in the midst of one of the finest campaigns of a stellar career that has netted more than $500,000 in earnings. He equaled the track's six-furlong track record of 1:07.80 with a win in the Seattle Handicap in his 2002 debut, then established a track record for 6 1/2 furlongs when he won the Fox Sports Net Handicap in 1:13.80.

He was nipped by stablemate Secret Launch in the one-mile Budweiser-Emerald Handicap on June 16, then was freshened until July 28, when he ran fourth to another stablemate, Moonlight Meeting, in the nine-furlong Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap.

Three aiming for Longacres Mile

Crowning Meeting was one of five horses Ross was preparing for a possible engagement in the Aug. 25 Grade 3 Longacres Mile, a race she and her husband, Larry Ross, won with Chum Salmon in 1985, but that number is now down to three.

Hollywood Park allowance winner Alfurune has also been withdrawn from consideration for the Mile after going unplaced in Sunday's Governor's Handicap, according to owner Terry Garrison.

That leaves as Ross's Mile hopefuls Moonlight Meeting, who won the Independence Day Handicap and the Mt. Rainier in his last two outings; Budweiser-Emerald winner Secret Launch; and Radar Contact, who returned from a layoff to run fourth in the Governor's.

"Moonlight Meeting worked a half-mile in 46.80 on Wednesday, then galloped out five furlongs in 59.40," said Ross. "He couldn't be doing any better.

"Radar Contact is also on schedule. He moved a little early and got a little tired in the Governor's, but he figured to need that race and he was only beaten about two lengths. Secret Launch is touch and go. He bruised a foot in his last race and we lost some time with him, but he worked a half-mile in 48 this week and he did it nicely. If I can get two more good works in him, he'll go."

Makors Mark gets needed prep

Makors Mark, who was named horse of the meeting after winning three stakes and running third in the Mile last year, is also on track for a Mile engagement after getting a needed prep in the Governor's. Makors Mark faded to last after dueling with eventual winner Colterkind through a fast half-mile in 44.20 seconds.

"His race won't look good on paper, but he got a lot out of it," said assistant trainer Grant Forster. "He just ran out of air. The funny thing is that he caught a second wind past the wire and wouldn't pull up, then he jogged all the way back to the barn. I really think he got what he needed out of the race."

Flying Notes scares 'em away

Is Flying Notes running out of competition in the local 3-year-old division?

Only five horses were nominated to challenge the divisional leader in Sunday's $65,000 Washington Owners Breeders' Cup Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, and one of the best credentialed of the quintet will not run. Assistant trainer Kay Cooper reported that Turban, who was coming off an impressive one-mile allowance win in 1:34.80, will have to skip Sunday's stakes after grabbing a quarter in his stall.

Cooper and her father, trainer Jim Penney, will still be sending out the main threat to the favorite in Salt Grinder, who was second to Flying Notes in both the one mile Seattle Slew Handicap and the 1 1/16-mile Tacoma Handicap in his last two outings.

"Salty is doing just awesome now, but we've still got to figure out a way for him to beat Flying Notes," said Cooper. "Flying Notes is an exceptional horse, and it is hard to plan a strategy against him when you don't know what he is going to do up front."

Cooper was referring to Flying Notes's distressing habit of drifting out, which he has developed since being sent long. It is a problem that trainer Bud Klokstad is trying to solve.

"I've been working him in extension blinkers and he hasn't gotten out at all, but he has never gotten out that badly in his works," said Klokstad.

"I'm not sure if I'll put them on him Sunday or not. I hate to change anything when he is running so well. On the other hand, it would tick me off if he came out in front of somebody and got disqualified."

* Our Game Plan, who has a maiden win and two stakes placings from three starts at the meeting for trainer Len Kasmerski and owner Ron Hersh, has been sold to David and Elaine Parks. Our Game Plan, a 2-year-old daughter of Game Plan, will move to the barn of trainer Bill Tollett

* A dance and auction to benefit longtime exercise rider and valet Tom Kidwell, who had a severe stroke last month, will be held on the fourth floor of Emerald Downs after Sunday's races, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and will be available at the door.