06/03/2002 11:00PM

New interest in reviving racing at Yakima

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AUBURN, Wash. - The news last week was about Eric Nelson's plans to return racing to Playfair and Andy Stronach's hopes to bring racing to Point Roberts.

This week, there is renewed interest in resurrecting racing at Yakima Meadows, which has been dark since its last operator called it quits after just 10 days of a scheduled 40-day meet in 1998.

Nelson, a Las Vegas real estate broker who owns Wyoming Downs and holds an option on Green Mountain Park, a dormant track in Vermont, has confirmed that he is investigating the possibility of leasing Yakima Meadows. He was scheduled to meet Wednesday with Greg Stewart, president and general manager of the Central Washington Fair Association, which owns the track.

Other parties are also interested in the central Washington track. A group of Southwest investors who vied with Nelson to buy Playfair looked at Yakima Meadows on Monday, according to Stewart. That group is headed by Jim Brown, a New Mexico resident with business interests in Washington.

Pat LePley, chairman of the Washington Horse Racing Commission, has credited a 2001 law that greatly expanded simulcasting for spurring the surge of interest in Washington racing. Nelson and others have also cited the prospect of alternative forms of gambling, including cards and Instant Racing, as an attraction.

Obstacles to returning racing to Yakima Meadows are substantial, however. Although the clubhouse and grandstand have been maintained in the years the track has been dark, the inner rail and the portable stalls that filled the large barns have been removed. A sprint-car track now intersects a portion of the horse racing surface, which would require major renovation to again accommodate racing. In addition, certain environmental issues, such as the disposal of waste water, may need to be addressed.

Yakima Meadows occupies a part of the Central Washington State Fairgrounds and could be leased, but not purchased.

Favorite's flop creates record payoff

It is difficult to say which was the more shocking aspect of last Sunday's one-mile Kent Handicap: that Dolly's Hit Man won the $45,000 stakes, or that Lasting Code didn't.

Lasting Code, who had been sold for a six-figure sum before the Kent, went off at 3-5 after dominating a pair of local stakes for 3-year-old fillies. She broke half a step slowly and was forced wide around both turns, but that can hardly explain her lackluster last place finish under leading rider Kevin Radke.

Instead, Dolly's Hit Man, overlooked at 13-1, took the lead at the start and was never seriously challenged, scoring by four lengths under Nate Chavez in 1:35.60. Miss Ballard ran second at 9-1, Mimi La Rue was up for third at 37-1, and Ashbecca closed for fourth at 4-1. Those four produced an Emerald Downs record superfecta payoff of $15,487.20.

It was the fourth win from 15 starts for Dolly's Hit Man, who races for Allen Floyd of Othello.

"I really like this filly over a route of ground, but she had a little bleeding problem at Golden Gate and I was slow to detect it," said trainer Tim McCanna. "Once we got that taken care of and gave her a little break, she really blossomed. I thought that if Lasting Code didn't fire, we could beat the others."

* Jockey Ben Russell was red hot last week. After taking off his mounts on Thursday while ill, Russell won three races Friday, four Saturday and three again on Sunday to finish the week with 10 wins from 24 mounts. Russell now has 43 wins through 28 days of racing, just one fewer than Radke.

* Arctic White, one of just a dozen horses registered as pure white in color, registered a bullet six-furlong drill in 1:12.60 on Sunday morning. Trainer Howard Belvoir is prepping the 3-year-old Arctic White for his debut on the maiden special weight level at Emerald.

* Colony Lane, runner-up in the six furlong Auburn Stakes for 3-year-olds in just the second start of his career, underwent surgery last week to remove a bone chip from his knee. Trainer Bonnie Jenne said he will probably miss the remainder of the Emerald meeting.

* Salt Grinder remained undefeated after three career starts by winning last Sunday's 6 1/-2-furlong Klondike Handicap at Hastings Park.