08/16/2002 12:00AM

Lasting Code comes into Oaks plenty cranky

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AUBURN, Wash. - Lasting Code is getting cranky, and that makes trainer Bob McMeans glad.

Owner Jerre Paxton purchased Lasting Code, the certain favorite for Sunday's $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks for 3-year-old fillies at nine furlongs, in a private transaction in May, and at that time she was a perfect lady.

"She was so quiet around the barn, I thought she was just a real laid-back filly," recalled McMeans. "I didn't know that just wasn't her."

The trainer found out that Lasting Code, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Lost Code, wasn't herself when she ran the first and only bad race of her career in the one-mile Kent Handicap on June 2, finishing last of eight at odds of 3-5.

"It turned out that her ankles were bugging her a little, and as we worked on them and she got to feeling better, she got more ornery," he said.

"She never really acted up, but she was more demanding and she made a lot more noise. Whenever we took another horse out, she would squeal until we let her out of her stall, too."

Lasting Code was feeling feisty when she returned to win the 1 1/16-mile Irish Day Handicap by a nose on June 30, and feistier still when she came back to win the July 20 Paragon Handicap at the same distance by a neck. Now she is even worse, which is, McMeans has learned, better.

"It's just her way of showing that she is feeling good," he said. "So the crankier she is, the better I like it. Judging by the way she has been acting lately, she is feeling better than ever.

"This is a new distance for her, but she is bred to go this far and she won't be short on conditioning. She actually finished with a lot left in her last race, even though she only won by a neck. She has a habit of waiting for horses once she gets in front, so I don't think we're ever going to see her drawing off to win by a big margin. She won't let them by her, though, and that's what counts."

More good fillies

Paxton, who races under the banner of Northwest Farms, is campaigning an exceptional group of 3-year-old fillies, including sprint stakes winner Strong Credentials and maiden special weight graduate Complete Package at this track and Strikes No Spares, who ran third in a Grade 3 stakes last weekend at Arlington Park.

The latest to emerge is the McMeans-trained Untamed Passion, who made a spectacular debut here last Saturday when she defeated maiden special weight company by four lengths after 6 1/2 furlongs in a rapid 1:15.80.

Much was made of the fact that Paxton purchased Untamed Passion for $200,000 as a yearling, but a perusal of her pedigree makes one wonder why she didn't cost more. She is by Blue Grass winner Pulpit, whose 26 yearlings sold for an average of $423,538 in 2000, and her female family is hardly subpar. Her dam, Lotta Dancing, was a Grade 3 stakes winner of $358,000, and her maternal granddam, Lotka, was a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner of $721,804 and a full sister to millionaire Stephen's Odyssey.

"Jerre bought her in January, so she was barely a yearling," explained McMeans. "Also, she wasn't an impressive individual at that time, or even last year at 2. It wasn't until this year that she really grew into herself and started showing her talent. She still has a ways to go as far as maturity is concerned."

Untamed Passion was entered in a mile allowance race a week before she made her debut, but was scratched in the paddock.

"She froze up in the paddock, then she lurched forward and went to her knees," McMeans recalled. "She was fine, and in most places they give you the choice of whether you want to go ahead and run, but around here that is an automatic scratch.

"She was freezing up in the paddock again on Saturday, but we managed to keep her feet under her. We took her off by herself to saddle her, then we put the jockey up on the track. I didn't know if we'd get her to the gate or not, but once the race started she ran like a total professional. That's her saving grace. She does want to run."

* Approximately $35,000 was raised to defray rehabilitation costs for exercise rider and valet Tom Kidwell, who suffered a severe stroke last month, at a dance and auction held here last Sunday night.

* Services were held in Spokane on Friday for jockey Lane Rennaker, who died last Saturday of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Rennaker, 40, won 1,382 races over his 20-year career and was second-leading rider at Playfair three times in the 1990's.