07/12/2001 11:00PM

Kenney set to claim his stakes


AUBURN, Wash. - With 25 victories and a 29 percent success rate through the first 49 days of the 89-day Emerald Downs stand, leading trainer Dan Kenney is clearly enjoying a banner meeting. The one thing this 39-year-old native of Seattle hasn't done this season is to saddle a stakes winner, and he hopes to correct that in Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Boeing Handicap for fillies and mares.

Kenney will send out Paige's Sister, a 5-year-old daughter of Better Believe Me who won a pair of one mile races at the Turf Paradise meeting that concluded May 22, including a minor stakes on the turf that drew a tough field of 11.

"She just arrived here last Friday, but I like what I've seen of her so far," said Kenney. "She looks the part, and she is obviously in great health, so everything looks good.

"This race should suit her. She wants the distance, and if all the speed horses that were nominated actually run, it should set up pretty well for her closing style."

Paige's Sister races for Dr. C. L. Osborne, who bred her at his Osborne Farms in Snohomish, Wash. She was trained in Phoenix by Dr. Osborne's daughter, Linda, but it was fitting that the mare went to Kenney's barn when she moved north.

"The Osbornes gave me one of my first horses to train when I got my license 20 years ago," Kenney recalled. "Remember Allowance? He was a nice route horse by Champagne Supper, who is the sire of Paige's Sister's dam. It would be nice to win this race for old time's sake."

Kenney's strong showing at this meet caught some by surprise, as he had never before started enough horses to contend for the training title at Emerald. It wasn't entirely unexpected by the trainer, however.

"I really thought I could be in the top three to five trainers this season," he said. "I turned a lot of horses out last winter with the idea of pointing them to this meet, and I got several new horses. I have usually had a 30-horse barn, but this year I've got 45 to 50 horses in training. I also have a nice farm in Snohomish where I can freshen the horses up, and I have a great barn crew at the track headed by my assistant, John Henderson.

"Finally, Ben Russell has done a great job of riding for me. He has ridden most of my winners, and I've been impressed with how smart he is and how hard he tries. He seems to make the best of every situation.

"All of those things figure into it, and so does luck. Everything is just clicking right now."

Playfair 'sunk'

With a July 18 deadline looming, the future of racing at Spokane's Playfair Race Course looks very doubtful.

In an order issued on July 6, the Washington Horse Racing Commission said it would revoke the license of Lilac City Racing Association, which lost roughly $850,000 in its first year of operating Playfair in 2000, unless the association could raise $300,000 in new capital by July 18. Bruce Wagar, president of Lilac City, said that chances of meeting that deadline are almost nil.

"We're going to keep trying, but I really can't think or imagine who would drop $300,000 on us at this point," said Wagar. "We've gone to everyone we can think of, but nobody wants to help."

Wagar said Lilac City's board knew it could not count its current line of credit of $275,000 against the commission's requirement, but it was initially hopeful it could count some $197,000 in other available funds that it reported to the commission at a hearing on July 2. In a clarification of the commission's order, WHRC representatives made it clear that the $300,000 requirement was over and above the funds already at Lilac City's disposal.

"At that point we were basically sunk," said Wagar. "I feel badly about it. I really thought we could make a go of it at Playfair, but we're not going to have the chance. It's sad for the horsemen in Eastern Washington, and it's sad for the whole industry."