08/03/2006 11:00PM

Maiden live in Seattle Slew


AUBURN, Wash. - It is unusual for a 3-year-old maiden to run in a stakes, and that is especially true when the trainer who runs him is thoroughly familiar with what it takes to win such a race.

Trainer Grant Forster certainly qualifies as a stakes-savvy trainer, having won 14 stakes at Emerald since taking out his license in 2003, so it is interesting to note that he will saddle Brother Bobby for Sunday's $65,000 Seattle Slew Breeders' Cup.

Brother Bobby, a son of Out of Place, is not only a maiden. He has started just once, and that was at Turfway Park in Kentucky in December, when he ran second to Malameeze in a maiden special weight race at a mile. Brother Bobby will now be asked to take on seasoned stakes runners at 1 1/16 miles off an eight-month layoff in only his second career start.

"It's not my usual way of doing things, that's for sure," Forster said. "I think he is a very serious horse, though, and I'd like to have the option of running him in the Emerald Derby. In order to have that option, I need to get a route race into him. I entered him in a maiden race at a mile for last Sunday, but that race didn't go. Running him in the stakes wasn't my first choice, but now it looks like it is probably my only choice."

Forster conceded that Brother Bobby will be seriously disadvantaged by a lack of experience on Sunday, but he doesn't feel the gelding will be conceding anything in the way of talent.

"He ran huge in his start at Turfway, and he has trained sensationally since I put him back into training here in April," Forster said. "He worked a mile in 1:36 last Saturday, and Ricky Frazier has agreed to ride him, even though I'm sure he had other options."

Brother Bobby did run big at Turfway, and his effort was flattered when the winner of that race came back to run third of 12 in the Grade 2 Lane's End and fifth of 10 in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby. And Brother Bobby's mile workout was indeed spectacular when you consider that Livinonlovanadime won last month's Tacoma Handicap covering a mile in 1:35.60 - just .40 of a second faster than Bother Bobby's work.

Ricky Frazier's commitment to ride Brother Bobby also is noteworthy, not only because he will be getting off two other contenders to ride, but also because he will have to reduce weight to make the maximum allowable weight of 116 pounds. As a maiden, Brother Bobby is assigned 109 pounds for the Seattle Slew, and riders can be no more than seven pounds overweight.

Still, despite his obvious ability and the faith that his rider has in him, there is no guarantee that Brother Bobby can be competitive with, much less defeat, his far more seasoned rivals on Sunday.

"I could end up with egg on my face," Forster conceded. "It won't be the first time, though, and it probably won't be the last. I'm actually looking forward to seeing how he stacks up against these horses."

Two toughies are out

Brother Bobby's task could easily have been tougher. Schoolin You, last year's juvenile champ at Emerald, has yet to make his 3-year-old debut. And Livinonlovanadime, who took over leadership of the 3-year-old division with his Tacoma win, is sidelined with a shin injury.

So Courting Seattle is atop the division by default. A son of Doneraile Court, Courting Seattle won the six-furlong Auburn Stakes in May and is coming off a narrow loss to Livinonlovanadime in the Tacoma. Courting Seattle led till the shadow of the wire before being overhauled by Livinonlovanadime, and he really wasn't stopping. He ran the final quarter-mile in a respectable 24.40.

"I actually think he was waiting on horses down the stretch, and he didn't see Livinonlovanadime coming," said trainer Howard Belvoir. "Whether that was the case or not, he finished strong. I don't think another sixteenth of a mile will be a problem for him, especially if he gets another easy lead. It doesn't look like there is a lot of speed in there, and he is very tractable on the lead."

The only other local stakes winner in the field is Raise the Bluff, who won the 6 1/2-furlong Pepsi Cola Handicap in June impressively. Raise the Bluff ran an even sixth in the Tacoma, however, and trainer Junior Coffey doesn't have an excuse.

"Sometimes things happen in a race that even the trainer doesn't know about," he said. "Maybe he got hit in the face with a clod and that discouraged him. All I can say is that he didn't finish the way I thought he would, and yet he came out of the race just fine. He has trained well since then, so I'll send him out there again and hope for the best."