06/08/2006 11:00PM

Nobody claiming victory yet

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AUBURN, Wash. - Karis Makaw was assigned co-high weight of 119 pounds for Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Washington State Legislators Handicap, which didn't surprise trainer Bob Meeking. Karis Makaw earned her impost with a pair of impressive stakes wins here last season, and she did little to tarnish her reputation when she closed with a rush to be beaten less than a length by Kissntheboysgoodby in the six-furlong Hastings Park Handicap on May 14.

Nevertheless, Meeking feels that Kissntheboysgoodby, trained by Charlie Essex, is the one to beat on Sunday.

"We all have to beat Charlie's horse to get the money," said Meeking. "She beat us last time, and it didn't look to me like she was slowing down at the end. There might be others that will be tough to beat as well, but before we can even think about winning this race we've got to find a way to beat Charlie's horse."

That's not to say Meeking is conceding victory to Kissntheboysgoodby. Meeking was very pleased with the way Karis Makaw ran in the Hastings Park, and he expects the 5-year-old daughter of Charismatic to run even better on Sunday.

"She really should be coming around to her best effort in her third start of the year, and that seems to be the case," he said. "She worked a half-mile in 46 seconds last Saturday, and I thought she went very well. Of course she probably won't show her very best stuff until she goes around two turns, which seems to be her best game. She'll like 6 1/2 furlongs better than she liked six, though, so there is hope."

Hat trick won't come easy

Essex said the 4-year-old Kissntheboysgoodby has continued to thrive since her Hastings Park victory, which followed a win over many of the same rivals in a 5 1/2-furlong allowance on April 22. He feels that a third straight win for his stable star is anything but a given, however.

"I thought it was a tough bunch that she beat last time, and now they are throwing some new horses into the mix," said Essex. "A Classic Life looks really tough, and there are three or four others who could jump up and run big. They don't give away that $40,000 purse for nothing. We've got to earn it."

Distance a bit short for A Classic Life

A Classic Life was scheduled to take on Kissntheboysgoodby in the Hastings Park, but a minor accident delayed the meeting.

"Something spooked her in her stall, and she reared up and got her legs over the wall," said trainer Grant Forster. "She just scuffed up her shins a little. It was nothing serious, but I didn't feel comfortable running her. That wasn't the race we were pointing her toward, anyway."

A Classic Life won the one-mile Barbara Shinpoch Stakes here as a 2-year-old and captured the 1 1/8-mile Washington Oaks last year at 3. This year her chief goals are the one-mile Emerald Breeders' Cup Distaff on Longacres Mile Day, Aug. 20, and the 1 1/8-mile Ballerina at Hastings Park on Oct. 14. The Washington State Legislators Handicap serves as her first prep for those races, but Forster doesn't regard it as only a prep.

"Six and a half furlongs probably isn't ideal, but as sharp as she is right now I think she can be effective at that distance," said the trainer. "She obviously loves this track, and she has never trained better."

Both of those remarks rank as understatements. A Classic Life has won 5 of her 6 outings at Emerald Downs, and all five of her recorded workouts at the current meeting are bullets. Her final prep for Sunday's stakes was a five-furlong drill in 58.60 seconds on Tuesday.

Debbie's Assault breathing easy

Trainer Bob McMeans was relieved, if not exactly pleased, by Debbie's Assault's allowance prep for the Washington State Legislators on May 28. Making her seasonal debut over a sloppy track, the 4-year-old Debbie's Assault made a powerful move on the turn to loom a bold threat at the quarter pole, but flattened out through the stretch to finish sixth, beaten better than 10 lengths by entrymate Dinner at Arlene's.

"She got away from the gate slowly, and she has never liked to run on a wet track," said McMeans. "I wasn't discouraged by her effort, and I was actually pretty happy that she came back breathing normally. Both times I ran her last year she came back in distress, so I had to turn her out."

Debbie's Assault's problem was that her soft palate was becoming displaced, shutting off her air passage. The problem was addressed surgically, but that surgery is far from foolproof. McMeans noted that it didn't work on the best horse he has ever trained, 14-time stakes winner Firesweeper. Consequently, McMeans is taking additional precautions with Debbie's Assault. He is racing her in a Cornell collar, which is a figure-eight halter with a strap that goes under the horse's jaw. A lifting device is attached to the strap and fitted under the larynx to prevent the soft palate from displacing.

Opinions vary among horsemen as to the effectiveness of the Cornell collar, but McMeans is a believer.

"I have two horses who have had breathing problems, and it has worked for both of them," he said. "I just wish they had been around in the past, because I have had to retire some nice horses because I couldn't solve their breathing problems. Now I feel like I can do that."