06/10/2004 11:00PM

Longer is better for Sariano


AUBURN, Wash. - The ninth running of the $50,000 Irish Day Handicap at a mile on Sunday is the meeting's first two-turn stakes for 3-year-old fillies, and the distance change can't come soon enough for trainer Steve Bullock.

The Bullock-trained Sariano notched her first stakes win last time out in the 6 1/2-furlong Federal Way Handicap on May 16, when she went from last to first to prevail by a half-length over Sandia's Flicka, and Bullock believes she will be even tougher in a route.

"This is what we have been waiting for," he said. "She has always acted like she wants more ground."

Sariano tried a mile in last year's Barbara Shinpoch Stakes and finished third to Sala de Oro, but Bullock said Sariano didn't show her best stuff.

"She was no more than 50 percent that day," he said. "She had flipped when I was schooling her in the paddock earlier that week, and she hurt her tailbone. The vet said it was okay to go ahead and run her, but she couldn't walk for 10 days after the race. That's how I know she wasn't right."

Sariano was given the fall and winter to heal, and she has not missed a beat since returning to training in early February.

"She is about as good as she can be right now," Bullock said Thursday morning. "I just galloped her, and I'm sweating. She was super tough. I know she is ready to run a big race. I just hope we get a fast track and a decent pace to run at. She'll do the rest."

Swingn' Notes has scored in route before

Another who seems certain to relish the extra distance of the Irish Day is Swingn' Notes, who defeated maiden special weight company at Golden Gate in her first route attempt, a 1 1/16-mile turf race, then came back to win the one-mile Corte Madera Stakes over a muddy track in December. Swingn' Notes ran a creditable fourth in her first start back from vacation in the Federal Way, and trainer Bud Klokstad thinks she will show more at a mile.

"Her two distance races in California were awfully good, and she beat some pretty good fillies in the stakes," he said. "She has never won sprinting, so I have to think the mile will be better for her."

The second-place finisher in the Corte Madera was the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Secret Corsage, who has since placed in two other northern California route stakes. Finishing third was the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Renaissance Lady, who was exiting the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Santa Anita, where she finished 13th. Renaissance Lady returned to run second twice in Southern California allowance company before running poorly last time out at Keeneland.

Trainer says he has 'Crystal' in great shape

Trainer Larry Smith believes he may have a live longshot on Sunday in Crystal Mt. Stevie, who won the six-furlong Diane Kem Stakes here last year as a juvenile. Crystal Mt. Stevie, a daughter of Slewdledo and the Kennedy Road mare Signal Your Turn, has stopped badly in all three of her starts at the current meeting.

"Each time the rider felt she had a ton of horse under her, then all of a sudden there was nothing," said Smith. "We checked her out thoroughly, and we found a couple of small problems that we were able to take care of. Now she is training like a different horse. She worked six furlongs in 1:13.20 last Sunday, then galloped out a mile real aggressively. She was strong and sound every step of the way."

Smith thinks Crystal Mt. Stevie, who figures to set the pace, will have the stamina necessary to get a mile through her dam, who scored six of her 10 career wins at route distances.

* Local fans who had hoped to see Canadian star Regal Red, who was made the 121-pound highweight for the Irish Day, will have to do so via simulcast. Regal Red, a daughter of former British Columbia champion Sophie J, will remain at Hastings to contest Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Emerald Downs Handicap. Trainer Robbie Anderson, who also trained Sophie J, said Regal Red will probably not venture to Emerald until the $100,000 Washington Breeders' Cup Oaks on Aug. 21.