07/29/2002 11:00PM

Ross's plans for Mile right on target

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AUBURN, Wash. - Two down and three to go.

Sharon Ross, who hopes to have five starters in the Aug. 25 running of the Grade 3, $250,000 Longacres Mile, saw two of them earn berths on Sunday when Moonlight Meeting won the $100,000 Mt. Rainier Breeders' Cup Handicap, setting a track record, and Crowning Meeting ran fourth.

Those who bet Crowning Meeting down to 7-5 were no doubt disappointed with the 8-year-old's performance, but Ross felt he got what he needed out of the 1 1/8-mile Mt. Rainier.

"A mile and an eighth is probably beyond his best distance, and on top of that he was coming off a freshening," Ross said. "He probably had a license to get a little tired, but he ran hard all the way and the effort will set him up nicely for the Mile."

Crowning Meeting, who races for George and Norma Sedlock, had been the leader of the local handicap division. He won the six-furlong Seattle Handicap in a track-record-equaling 1:07.80 and the 6 1/2-furlong Fox Sports Net Handicap in a track- record 1:13.80 before dropping a close decision to stablemate Secret Launch in the mile Budweiser-Emerald Handicap. Crowning Meeting took a break while Moonlight Meeting won his first stakes, the 1 1/16-mile Independence Day Handicap by a half-length over Sabertooth.

Most saw Sunday's Mt. Rainier as a showdown between Crowning Meeting and Moonlight Meeting, but it turned out to be no contest. Moonlight Meeting, a 7-year-old son of General Meeting who races for Rick Beal, sat well off the pacesetting Sabertooth in third position through a half-mile in 46.20 seconds and was still five lengths behind after six furlongs in 1:09.40. But he moved with a rush to collar the leader inside the furlong marker and quickly drew out to score by nearly six lengths in 1:47, shaving .20 off the record set by Flirtatious Girl in 1999. Sabertooth held second by more than three lengths over Hoodoo Peak, who got up to edge a tiring Crowning Meeting for third.

"My job was very easy," said Ricky Frazier, who notched his third win from four rides aboard Moonlight Meeting. "Sharon had this horse exceptionally fit and ready, so there was really nothing I could do but win. He is so right. All we have to do is lead him over here. I don't think the distance makes any difference. He's going to win. I just have to make sure I don't get him taken down."

And now the other three

Though pleased and relieved by the Mt. Rainier results, Ross has no time to relax. She will saddle Secret Launch, Radar Contact, and Alfarune in Sunday's 6 1/2-furlong Governor's Handicap, the final prep for the Mile, and she is looking for competitive efforts from all three.

Secret Launch impressively won the Budweiser-Emerald before being sidelined with a sore foot; Radar Contact will be returning to action after a winter campaign at Golden Gate that saw him win one stakes and place in two others; and Alfarune is coming off back-to-back wins in allowance races at Hollywood Park.

"They are all doing super," said Ross, who has swept the five stakes for older males at this meeting. "It has really been fun having all these old boys in my barn. I hope we can keep it up. There is nothing I'd like better than to saddle them all for the Mile."

Another maiden, another stakes

If the Mt. Rainier had a familiar feel to it, Saturday's $45,000 filly division of the Washington Stallion Stakes was pure deja vu. Three weeks earlier trainer Steve Bullock had sent out the maiden Calldara to post a come-from-behind victory in the six-furlong Angie C. Stakes. On Saturday, it was another Bullock-trained maiden, Gold Thunder, who came from next to last to score by 1 3/4 lengths over C G Regency in 1:18.20 for 6 1/2 furlongs. Gold Thunder was coming off a third, to Calldara's second, while racing for a $32,000 tag.

"I told the owners she was about equal to Calldara, so they decided to go for it," said Bullock. "I've had pretty good luck running 2-year-old maidens in stakes, so I'm not shy about doing it."

It was Bullock's 19th stakes win at Emerald Downs, his seventh with a juvenile, and his fifth with a maiden. It was also the 16th time Bullock had teamed with his brother-in-law, rider Gallyn Mitchell, to win a local stakes, making the two the most successful trainer-jockey combination in Emerald Downs stakes history.

* Catalogs are now available for the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders' Association's summer yearling sale, which will be held Sept. 3 in the Morris J. Alhadeff Sales Pavilion on the grounds of Emerald Downs. A total of 216 are slated to be sold.

* Former Playfair and Longacres rider Jose Corrales, back from an extended stint of training in Macau, won for the first time in Southern California on Sunday when he sent out Gamblin Town to victory in the last race at Del Mar. Gamblin Town is owned by Washington resident Bill Aubrey.

* The Washington Horse Racing Commission was scheduled to meet Wednesday (July 31) at 1 p.m. in the city council chambers at Auburn City Hall. The commission will establish procedures for processing the application to restore racing at Playfair.