05/30/2002 11:00PM

Looking for a knock on 'Code'

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AUBURN, Wash. - Lasting Code has a new home, having recently been purchased by Jerre Paxton's Northwest Farms and moved to the Emerald Downs barn of Bob McMeans. And that's the best reason to believe that someone can upset her in Sunday's $45,000 Kent Handicap at one mile.

"A barn switch is always tricky," noted trainer Grant Forster, who will saddle Miss Ballard for the Kent. "It's nothing against Bob. I'm sure he'll do a great job with her. But every barn has its own way of doing things, and sometimes it takes horses a while to settle in and get comfortable, especially when they are fillies."

Forster may be grasping at straws, but you can't blame him. By winning four stakes in five starts, including impressive victories in the U.S. Bank Stakes and the Federal Way Handicap at this meet, Lasting Code has set herself apart from her competition in the northwest's 3-year-old filly division. If she runs on Sunday as she has run recently, she will be a very likely winner of the Kent.

McMeans, whose accomplishments include developing former Washington-bred champion Firesweeper and Strong Credentials, the second-ranking 3-year-old filly on the grounds, admitted to having the same concerns that Forster expressed. He said Lasting Code has since allayed his fears.

"She is such a laid-back filly, I don't think anything bothers her," said the trainer. "She just moved in here and went about her business. She has been eating well and training well, so I don't see any reason for her not to run well on Sunday."

Lasting Code won't have to worry about Strong Credentials in the Kent, since McMeans sent her out win an allowance sprint here last Sunday. But she will have to deal with Ashbecca, who handed Lasting Code her only defeat in last season's Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at a mile.

In the Shinpoch, her first start at Emerald after posting a pair of stakes victories at Hastings Park, Lasting Code opened a two-length advantage with a furlong to run and then became distracted, according to jockey Chris Loseth, allowing Ashbecca to nail her on the wire by a head.

Ashbecca, a late runner, will try to duplicate that upset on Sunday. She began her 3-year-old campaign with a pair of seventh-place finishes in turf stakes at Santa Anita in March, then tuned up for the Kent with a closing fifth-place finish behind Lasting Code in the 6 1/2-furlong Federal Way Handicap on May 12.

"I don't think she handled the turf at Santa Anita, but I was pleased with the way she ran here," said trainer Steve Bullock. "The distance was too short for her, but she closed some ground and passed some horses. It should set her up for a big effort this time. Benny Russell is going to ride, and Benny was up when she beat Lasting Code last year. Hopefully, she'll do it again."

Holy Klondike, it's Salt Grinder!

Salt Grinder, who set a track record with 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:01.40 in his only start at the current Emerald Downs meeting on April 20, will run in the 6 1/2-furlong, $35,000 Klondike Stakes for 3-year-olds at Hastings Sunday.

"He is a B.C.-bred and they have several stakes restricted to B.C.-breds, so it makes sense to try him up there," said Kay Cooper, assistant to trainer Jim Penney. "We sent him up on Tuesday and he worked well over the track on Wednesday, so everything looks good. If he runs well, we'll look at some other races up there."

Cooper said Salt Grinder, who is undefeated after two starts, may be pointed toward the $75,000 Burnaby Breeders' Cup Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on June 29.

New post for Vacca

Ralph Vacca, the longtime general manager for the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association, has been appointed to the Washington Horse Racing Commission. Vacca, who will remain in his current position, will serve out the term of former commissioner Barbara Shinpoch, which expires in January.

Shinpoch resigned in April to protest the firing of WHRC executive secretary Bruce Batson.

The search to find a replacement for Batson will be taken up by an eight-member screening committee, which was announced at the commission's meeting on Wednesday. The committee is charged with winnowing the field of 42 applicants down to three or four to be interviewed.

Commission chair Pat LePley said the WHRC has applied to the state's salary commission for a 25 percent raise for it's executive secretary, which would bring the salary into the $80,000 to $86,000 range.