08/02/2002 12:00AM

No 4-peat for Handy N Bold


AUBURN, Wash. - Handy N Bold has won the last three runnings of the $60,000 Governor's Handicap, which will be contested on Sunday. He will not win the 6 1/2-furlong race for a fourth straight time.

"He chipped an ankle in a workout, and we had the chip removed last Thursday," said his trainer, Charles Essex. "He is out for the year."

Essex had hoped that the 7-year-old Handy N Bold would win a record 10th stakes at Emerald Downs this meet, but he produced only two sub-par efforts before being sidelined with a detached ligament in his hip in May. The trainer nursed him through that ailment and had him on track for the Governor's, which Handy N Bold used as a springboard to a runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Longacres Mile last year. Then the latest injury occurred.

"It's a shame it had to happen, but it could have been worse," said Essex. "The chip was right out in front, so his ankle should heal fine. He is still lightly raced for a 7-year-old, so I'm hoping he'll come back as good as new next year."

Handy N Bold's injury won't leave Essex on the sidelines for Sunday's race. He will send out Weekender, who gets in light under 111 pounds. A 6-year-old son of Chisos, Weekender is coming off an authoritative win over $32,000 claimers May 27, when he sped 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:14.60.

"I wasn't anxious to run him back for a tag after that race, and there really wasn't anyplace else to run him, so we've just been waiting," said Essex. "He has been training right along, and he is doing well. He never runs very often, but he sure lays his body down when he does run. I like him a lot. He's coming off the best race of his life and I'm thinking he might be ready to step out of Handy N Bold's shadow and make a name for himself."

Ross to run two

The favorite for the Governor's will likely be saddled by Sharon Ross, who has swept this meeting's first five stakes for older horses with Crowning Meeting, Secret Launch, and Moonlight Meeting. Secret Launch, who bruised a foot shortly after winning the Budweiser-Emerald Handicap, was scheduled to come back in the Governor's, but Ross decided to delay his return.

"He galloped on Thursday and I just didn't think he was quite right yet," she said. "He is getting there, and I still hope to have him ready for the Longacres Mile, but I think it would be a mistake to run him on Sunday."

That leaves Ross with Radar Contact, who captured the six-furlong Albany Handicap at Golden Gate last winter, and Alfarune, who is coming off back-to-back allowance wins at Hollywood this spring. Both figure to be strong factors in the Governor's, and Radar Contact might well be favored.

"Radar Contact has just been training super, and he always runs well fresh," said Ross. "He is the kind of horse who can do a little bit of everything, so I'm sure he'll be tough no matter how the race unfolds.

"Alfarune is more of a closing sprinter and he probably needs a fast pace for his best effort, but he is very capable. I've worked him twice since he got here from Hollywood, and he has been very impressive."

Makors Mark returns

The Governor's will bring the return to action of Makors Mark, who earned horse of the meeting honors here last season, when he won three stakes and ran third in the Longacres Mile. A 5-year-old, Makors Mark cracked a cannon bone while prepping for the Goodwood Handicap at Santa Anita last October, then had his comeback delayed by a severe illness this spring, but he has been training strongly of late.

"I think I've got enough bottom in him now, so it is time to get him back in the program," said his trainer, Dave Forster. "I'm happy with his progress and I think he'll run well, but it probably isn't realistic to expect his very best effort after so much time off. His main goal is the Mile, and this is his prep. If he runs a good race and comes out of it well, I'll be happy."

o The Washington Horse Racing Commission voted on Wednesday to enlist an administrative law judge to preside over the hearing for Playfair's application for a license to resume racing. The hearing will take place in Spokane during the week of Oct. 21, though the exact date has not been determined.

o David Brown of Wenatchee, Wash., won the $10,000 first prize in last Sunday's handicapping contest at Emerald, which saw 12 of the 400 contestants qualify for the $200,000 Daily Racing Form/NTRA National Handicapping Championship in Las Vegas. Also qualifying for trips to the national contest were Howard Durand, Wayne Palmer, Norm Spear, Michael Schmidtke, Tony Urbiha, Mark Frangooles, Shane Porter, Jeff Hardin, Arthur Caban, Harry Lambro, and Joe Jarvie.