06/30/2005 11:00PM

Karis Makaw tries to live up to billing

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AUBURN, Wash. - Just about everybody at Emerald Downs considers Karis Makaw the best route runner in the local filly and mare division.

Her reputation, however, outstrips her accomplishments to date. Karis Makaw, a 4-year-old daughter of Charismatic, probably should have won last year's Kent Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, but she had to settle for second after an extremely wide trip. She ran well enough to win last year's Washington Oaks at nine furlongs, but was denied by Bianconi Baby, who simply freaked on a wet race track. As a result, Karis Makaw will be looking for the first stakes win of her nine-race career in Sunday's $40,000 King County Handicap at a mile.

That won't keep Karis Makaw from going off as a strong favorite, though, and trainer Bob Meeking said he feels she merits the role. Meeking considers Karis Makaw to be as talented a performer as he has trained in a 59-year career that has included local derby wins with Mincemeat (1970), Salad Sam (1976), and Find Our Star (1996).

"In my mind she is in a class with those horses, even though she doesn't have their accomplishments yet," Meeking said. "I just think she is a wonderful filly. If I can keep her on the level she is at right now, she should have a really good year."

Meeking said he wasn't sure he could get Karis Makaw to her current level early this spring, when she trained without her usual enthusiasm. He said she began to come around shortly before her seasonal debut in a six-furlong allowance on May 14, though you wouldn't know that from her fourth-place finish as the even-money favorite.

"I think she must have been in season that day, because she just wasn't herself," he said. "She washed out in the paddock, then she rushed up the rail and dueled through a half-mile in 44.40. It was just a disaster, but she did get a lot out of that race and it might have been the best thing for her in the long run."

Karis Makaw came back to run one of her very best races in a mile allowance on June 18, dispatching the field with a quick move at the quarter pole and then coasting to a 4 1/4-length victory over the good stakes winner Sariano.

"That was close to being her best race, although I do feel she wants to go farther," said Meeking. "She seems to have stayed at the same level since then, and I'm looking for her to come back and run another really good race on Sunday. I hope she doesn't disappoint everybody who thinks she is such hot stuff, especially because I'm one of them."

Forster sends two out of town

Among Karis Makaw's challengers is a pair from trainer Dave Forster's powerful barn at Hastings. On Thursday, Forster sent Summer Symphony and Overact to the barn of his son, local trainer Grant Forster, and both are expected to contest the King County. Asked why he didn't split up the two stakes winners, running one in Saturday's Senate Appointee at Hastings and the other here, Forster had a compelling explanation.

"Because I've actually got four in that division," he said. "I planned to run Gold Accent and Socorro County in the Senate Appointee, so I sent the other two to Grant."

Both Summer Symphony and Overact ran well over this track last year. Summer Symphony was fourth in the Washington Oaks and Overact finished third in both the Federal Way Handicap and the Kent. Summer Symphony blossomed after her local appearance, winning the B.C. Oaks and finishing second to older fillies and mares in the Ballerina. She has added to her laurels this season, winning a mile stakes at Stampede Park before finishing fourth to La Belle Fleur in the recent Brighouse Belles at Hastings. Overact finished seventh in the same race.

"Neither of them ran their best race that day, but they both came out of it just fine and they seem to be doing really well," said Forster. "They worked five furlongs in company in 59.80 last Saturday, and I thought they both looked strong. They complement each other well, because Overact can run close to the pace and Summer Symphony usually comes from quite a ways back. I think she was too close to the pace in the Brighouse Belles, and that was her main problem. I'm expecting both of them to run a lot better on Sunday."

* A dinner and auction to benefit the Backstretch Clubhouse child care center and the Backstretch Chapel will be held on the track's fifth floor on Tuesday, July 12. The silent auction will begin at 5:30 pm, a prime rib and salmon buffet will open at 7:30, and a live auction will follow. Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased at the Quarter Chute Cafe, the Backstretch Clubhouse, or the offices of the Washington division of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.