07/23/2002 11:00PM

Paxton-McMeans duo doubles their pleasure


AUBURN, Wash. - Owner Jerre Paxton and trainer Bob McMeans have enjoyed many big days since they first teamed up more than 20 years ago, including a remarkable 13 days on which they won stakes with the brilliant Firesweeper in the mid-1980's. There couldn't have been many that were sweeter than last Saturday, however.

Paxton and McMeans visited the Emerald Downs winner's circle twice, including a trip to the enclosure after Lasting Code again proved her mettle with a hard fought victory in the $40,000 Paragon Handicap at 1 1/16 miles. As was the case in last month's Irish Day Handicap at the same distance, the 3-year-old Lasting Code had to keep tabs on a loose-on-the-lead Dolly's Hit Lady, all the while guarding against several potent late threats.

In the Irish Day, she easily collared Dolly's Hit Lady but had a devil of a time holding off the closers Premo Copy and Ashbecca to prevail by a nose.

This time it was Dolly's Hit Lady who provided the test, refusing to yield until the final yards, when Lasting Code got up to score by a neck in 1:46.60 under Kevin Radke for her fourth stakes win at the meeting and her sixth in eight starts. It wasn't supposed to be so hard for Lasting Code, the even-money favorite.

"We had Strong Credentials in the race to ensure an honest pace," McMeans said. "Well, Strong Credentials broke slowly and that blew the whole plan. Lasting Code had to do it all herself. Fortunately, she was tough enough to get the job done. We're proud of her for that."

Bisbee's Prospect fast in debut

If anything, Paxton and McMeans were even prouder of their other winner on Saturday, a homebred 2-year-old filly named Bisbee's Prospect. A half-sister to the good stakes-winner Taste the Passion, Bisbee's Prospect had been scheduled to debut in the Angie C. Stakes on July 7, but was excluded for lack of earnings when the race overfilled.

A maiden special weight race, the first of the meeting for 2-year-old fillies, provided Bisbee's Prospect her initial opportunity to run, and she was about half past ready. Cruising to the lead on the turn, she drew off to score by 8 1U2 lengths with 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.80, the fastest clocking at the meeting by more than a second for a juvenile of either sex.

"We always knew she could run, but it was nice to see her win the way she did," said McMeans. "We're excited about her. It's always fun when you have a horse from the beginning and bring her up to the races, and she runs like that. We think she has a big future. Maybe she can accomplish some of the things her sister didn't."

Taste the Passion was as talented as any filly to race at Emerald, but her career was forever compromised by an incident in her 2-year-old season. As she was headed to an apparent victory in the WTBA Lassies Stakes, a much larger Enduring Knight shied from a sign on the rail and slammed into Taste the Passion near the wire. Though she continued to race well for two more seasons, she seemed tentative near the wire and dropped several close decisions.

"Bisbee's Prospect is a little bigger and a lot tougher than Taste the Passion, so I don't worry about anything like that happening to her," said McMeans. "She is a mean little heifer. I can't imagine her being intimidated by anything."

Top Bracket overcomes slow fractions

Sunday's 1 1/16-mile Boeing Handicap for older fillies was one of the more oddly-run races at the meeting, and its result was among the most surprising. Despite slow fractions of 47.40 seconds for a half-mile and 1:11.60 for six furlongs set by an overmatched Northern Venture, the top three finishers came from last, next-to-last, and third from last, in that order.

Top Bracket, the longest shot on the board at 23-1, came from almost 10 lengths back to score by nearly a length in 1:42.80 under Gallyn Mitchell.

Latter Day Paula, at 12-1, outfinished second favorite Always a Dixie for second, setting off a $1 trifecta payoff of $1,479.40. It was the first win from 11 starts this year for Top Bracket, a 5-year-old Bertando mare who races for David and Elaine Parks, and it stunned most in the big Boeing Day crowd, but not trainer Bill Tollett.

"She lost her left eye last winter at Turf Paradise, and she got real sick after we brought her up here," he explained. "A lot has happened to her this year, and she is only just now starting to come back to herself.

"The other thing is that I haven't been able to find anybody to ride her properly. I told Gallyn to sit back and don't let her run a step until the quarter pole.

"It's hard for a rider to do that on a speed-biased track, but that's the only way she'll run. Gallyn rode her perfectly today, and I give him a lot of credit. I think he and I were the only ones who believed in her, but it turned out we were right."